Iran Moves Forward on Nuclear Facilities

By Davenport, Kelsey | Arms Control Today, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Iran Moves Forward on Nuclear Facilities


Davenport, Kelsey, Arms Control Today


Iran installed additional centrifuges in its underground uranium-enrichment facility at Fordow and increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, according to a Nov. 16 quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a Nov. 18 statement, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the report "confirms" that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful and that "each gram of uranium" is monitored by the IAEA.

The IAEA, however, concludes in the report that it is "unable to provide credible assurance" that all nuclear material in Iran is in "peaceful activities."

The report, prepared for the Nov. 29-30 IAEA Board of Governors meeting, found that Iran installed 644 centrifuges at Fordow since the previous report on Aug. 30, bringing the total number of centrifuges there to 2,784, which is the maximum capacity for the facility. The number of centrifuges currently enriching uranium to 20 percent, however, remained unchanged at 696 since the previous report. Since August, nearly 1,000 additional centrifuges also were installed at Natanz, Iran's second enrichment facility, in the area of the plant that produces reactor- grade uranium, although they too are not yet operational.

The report noted that Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent. The size of this stockpile is a principal concern of the international community because this material is more easily enriched to weapons grade. Iran maintains that the material will be used to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Resolutions adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council, however, have called on Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities, including enrichment.

In total, Iran has produced 232 kilograms of the 20 percent material, of which 135 kilograms are stored and could be enriched further should Tehran decide to pursue nuclear weapons. The remainder of the material has been slated for conversion from uranium hexafluoride gas into uranium oxide, a solid powder from which nuclear fuel is made. Although the powder can be returned to the gas form, experts say this process would take several months.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to comment on the contents of the IAEA report during a Nov. 16 press briefing. She said that the State Department had seen the report and would discuss it with other members of the IAEA board.

Reactors Face Difficulties

The IAEA conducted an inspection of Bushehr, Iran's sole nuclear power plant, Nov. 6-7 and confirmed in the Nov. 16 report that fuel assemblies had been transferred to the spent fuel pond. Iran informed the IAEA of the transfer Oct. 15.

Mark Fitzpatrick, former deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told Arms Control Today in a Nov. …

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