New Report From The IAEA Claims Iran Is Increasing Uranium Enrichment
GENEVA - A new report from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) claims that Iran has begun rolling out its upgraded uranium enrichment centrifuges, as western countries await Iran's response to continuing with the aged 2015 nuclear deal.
The first of three underground advanced cluster IR-6 enrichment centrifuges have been installed at a fuel enrichment plant at Natanz. The power plant has come online and is currently enriching uranium.
According to the 2015 Nuclear Deal, Iran is only allowed to enrich uranium with an IR-1 centrifuge. For more than a year, it has been enriching uranium to 60% purity, which is near weapons-grade material, at an above-ground site in Natanz.
IR-6 centrifuges have also been previously installed at other sites throughout Iran, with the most recent installment taking place at Fardow, an internal mountain installation. It has begun enriching uranium to 20%.
Reuters reported that the confidential report from the IAEA states this:
"On 28 August 2022, the Agency verified at FEP that Iran was feeding UF6 enriched up to 2% U-235 into the IR-6 cascade... for the production of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235..."
UF6, also known as Uranium hexafluoride, is a gas that is fed into the centrifuges and is enriched through the process.
The Times of Israel stated that Iran announced it was already enriching uranium to 20% in July 2022, in its already functioning IR-6 centrifuges. The IAEA reported Iran already had 43 kg of enriched uranium at 60% purity in June 2022, which but a small step to 90%. Experts in the IAEA have claimed this is enough material to make a nuclear weapon if Iran chose to go that route.
ASTRO PAK has also reported that the other two clusters that have been installed at Natanz FEP are undergoing what is known as passivation with already depleted UF6. Passivation is a process that is undergone, without nuclear material, prior to actual uranium enrichment. It is a chemical process in which a solution reacts with the surface of a metal, creating an outer layer of shield material, to prevent corrosion by future use and the environment. It also removes and prevents contamination on the metal surface and product.
In spite of all this, the United States and Iran appear to be coming closer to an agreement to bring back the 2015 nuclear deal, which also places restrictions on nuclear projects in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against Iran. The deal fell apart as Iran broke each regulation, one by one in 2018, forcing the United States to withdraw.
A year has passed as talks between the United States and Iran have been conducted through the coordination of the European Union, and Iran is said to finally respond soon to the requests of the US. It is not known how far the talks will go or to what lengths Iran is willing to go to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal as much of its work on enrichment would have to be reversed and limitations set on uranium enrichment at 3.67% purity.
The installation of advanced enrichment centrifuges deep underground at Natanz and buried deep inside a mountain at Fordow could be signs that Iran is willing to wait it out, in the event the deal falls through. It is not known at this time if airstrikes would be able to take out these sites, given their location.
With Iran's enrichment capabilities now approaching the 60% mark, western countries now fear Iran is moving ever so closer to the ability to manufacture nuclear warheads.
According to the Center For Strategic International Studies, in 2011, the IAEA published a report claiming that Iran had in fact carried out activities "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device", but had been stopped in 2003 after senior leaders in Iran yielded to international pressure.
There were 12 areas of focus that were identified by the report, which were specific to indications that Iran was working on nuclear explosive material.
The report listed the following: the structure of program management, activities involving logistics and procurement, gaining access to nuclear material, an explosive device with nuclear components, development of a detonator, experiments with high-grade explosives, experiments with hydrodynamics, working with models on a reduced scale, neutron initiator, conducting of field tests, missile delivery systems, and fuzing/firing mechanisms.
In 2014, Iran failed to disclose the purposes of the development of detonators, high-grade explosives, and working with scale models.
"We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas - including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles - from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so." - James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, January 29, 2014, Record Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Community Senate Select Committee
An article titled, 'The Iran Primer' by Michael Elleman, states that Iran's ballistic missile arsenal is the largest and most diverse in the middle east. Most of its ballistic missiles were received from foreign sources, mainly North Korea. However, Iran is the only country to develop a 2,000 km missile without first having nuclear capability. The missile is already waiting.
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