Okay, IAEA, we need to talk about your timing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have a new Safeguards Report on Iran, but… well, I guess if you’re tuned into Nukes of Hazard right now you’re probably not on your way to the beach anyway (or maybe you are?) so here’s what you need to know:
On one hand, the IAEA is “increasingly concerned” about “the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
On the other hand, while the report is anything but “evidence of Iran’s transparent and peaceful nuclear activities,” it does show a moderately increased level of cooperation by the country, a level that could be significant if maintained.
The report details a visit by the Deputy Director General for Safeguards to Iran from August 14-19, 2011. During his visit, the Deputy Director General was allowed access to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (which was down at the time), the enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, the IR-40 Reactor and Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) at Arak, and the conversion and fuel fabrication facilities at Esfahan. In addition, Iran provided access to “an installation where research and development (R&D) on advanced centrifuges was taking place,” along with “extensive information” on its current work on advanced centrifuges, which has fallen behind its originally conceived timeframe.
According to the report, Iran estimates that between September 14 and August 20, 2011, approximately 45.7 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 was produced. This would result in a total of approximately 70.8 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 having been produced since the process began in February 2010.
Ultimately, Iran’s decision to continue producing 20%-enriched uranium beyond the needs of the Tehran Research Reactor is increasingly concerning, but before folks tack on to those two new words used by the IAEA, they would be wise to calculate the real time remaining and consider the steps that can still be taken with regard to diplomacy, as well as the considerable messiness of the other option.
The report is due to be discussed by the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors at a meeting September 12-16.