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IRAN: A guide to Iran's latest nuclear moves

Iran centrifuges1

The United Nations confirmed last week that Iran had violated several U.N. resolutions by activating a second set, or "cascade," of centrifuges for enriching uranium at its nuclear plant in Natanz, leaving many wondering what this latest development meant.

The West has accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, a charge Tehran denies. Babylon and Beyond recently spoke with former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright and asked him to put Iran's latest move into perspective. 

B&B: Centrifuges spin at high rates of speed to enrich uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon or to generate electricity. What does it mean that Iran has activated a second cascade of centrifuges?

Albright: Activating the second cascade produces enriched uranium more efficiently, but it doesn’t really lead to increased production. The reason for concern is that we have to wonder why they are doing it. They don’t need to produce 20% enriched uranium efficiently. You only need a little 20% for the research reactor, so we have to conclude that they are trying to learn how to operate this centrifuge cascade. If they were going to make weapons-grade uranium, they would definitely need to learn to make it more efficiently.

B&B: Does this have serious implications for Iran’s nuclear capabilities?

Albright: Yes. When they go to weapons-grade uranium, they are going to have to use their material very efficiently, which means mastering this process of recycling waste... they will have to master this technique. It’s just practice; it’s not that hard to do, but they have had all kinds of trouble at each step along the way. While they appear to be technically capable, they’ve had problems that defy explanation. I think it has to do with a lack of technical depth, because the centrifuges are not that difficult to operate.

B&B: Iran says it needs the 20% enriched uranium for a medical research reactor. Are you saying that isn’t credible?

Albright: I’m sure they plan to use it for that, but they don’t need to do this step in order to accomplish that goal -- they don’t have to be this efficient. They were making about 3 or 4 kilograms of 20% uranium a month, and they only need 10 to 20 kilograms a year… [By activating the second cascade] the waste product of the first cascade is … fed into the second cascade and the product [of that] is put back into the first cascade. … The output is 19.7%, which is the same as they were making before, but it’s more efficient. … Why are they doing this? This could just be centrifuge people trying to be more efficient, or it could be that they want to make 20% material that is way beyond what they need for the research reactor, so you do have to ask: Is there a hidden weapons motivation?

B&B: We understand that process of enriching uranium becomes increasingly easier as the quality goes up, so that once they can enrich to 20%, it becomes much easier to reach 90%, which is weapons grade. Is this correct?

Albright: It’s less energy [to go from 20% enrichment to 90%], so you don’t need as many centrifuges to do it. ... If you put in 60,000 centrifuges … to go from 20% to 90%, you need just 500 of those 60,000 centrifuges. That’s less than 10% of centrifuges to go from 20% to 90%.

B&B: What options face the international community if they want to stop Iran from producing enough weapons-grade material for a bomb?

Albright: Sanctions are hurting them; they are pretty bothered by that, but the main thing for the [International Atomic Energy Agency] is to watch what is going on. They are in the main enrichment plant twice a month on average and in the pilot plant where these centrifuges are operating about four times a month.

B&B: So what should we be looking out for in the coming months?

Albright: How much 20% material is made. That is key, and then if there are problems that develop and if [the Iranians] are fully cooperative.

Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours Iran's main nuclear plant in Natanz in 2008. Credit: Office of the president

Comments () | Archives (10)

Few people always assume worst case scenarios on everything, let me analyze a word "assume" for you, assume real definition is to make a ass out of you and me, Iraq WMD was one case and point and Iran is their next obsession!

the main problem i feel is not the n/power plant its-self, and of course to use these weapons against your neighbours as i have said before would just be killing your-self (fall out winds) a speedy reply would not be needed
its more a case of who can and will get their hands on it and lets not say it wont happen america is worried as are quite a few other countries.
so esher haman lets not use the old flogging horse israel and as you put it,
zionists propaganda irans neighbours may br behind the plant but lets not forget her terrorist friends hezbollah/hamas.
thank you.

Here is what Scott Ritter (a legitimate nuclear inspector) says about David Albright:

"He [David ALbright] has never worked as a nuclear physicist on any program dedicated to the design and/or manufacture of nuclear weapons. He has never designed nuclear weapons and never conducted mathematical calculations in support of testing nuclear weapons, nor has he ever worked in a facility or with an organization dedicated to either."

The quotation is from: "The Nuclear Expert Who Never Was" at:

So, whatever opinion David Albright expresses does not seem to be too valuable.

The fact is there is no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. The point of trying to find more efficient ways of generating 20% purity uranium is that one needs to perfect anything one does. If the original attempts were not efficient, obviously Iran would try to improve the process. If Albright was a true scientist he would understand that the desire for perfection and efficiency are inherent in any scientific endeavor.

IT will be a matter of time ( within months ) That Iran will be setting off there first nuclear bomb and there is nothing we can do about it , War will break out because the Jewish nation will have no option but to attack before they are . President Obama again is left with egg on his face because the Russians see that he is a weak leader and they don't care about peace nor do they respect Obama . President Bush was not a great leader but sure I sure felt alot safer with him at the helm.

i think Washington should worry about other matters. nuclear plants are all over the planet anyone can implode anytime. cause damage and pollute, in Russia in France in Israel in Iran in the USA of America. better abolish, all those nuclear devices. however you blame Iran why? if you do have nuclear devices yourself! as were is the reasoning. unless you consider yourself above the reasoning of others. and this is not so, Jews are as dumb as Frenchmen and as Brits or Venezuelan, however there are Brits who are wiser, and Americans who do think properly.
therefore in what nuclear realm is concern, it is a big mistake, worldwide not just Iran. put those things to sleep as they will cause more harm than good. you do not have sufficient knowledge to understand the mysteries of it. as well search other technology like solar powers, or others. enhance your mind, detach yourself from the nuclear issue rather than advance humanity has lock itself into a dilemma it does not really comprehend and in the end it will destroy him, without understanding it fully. ban nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons worldwide evolve.

This is more typical BS content published by the LA Times. Just because you have a lot of Iranian exiles in the LA area, that's no reason for an anti-Iran bias that contributes toward another US was in the region.

Think about it.

US 'NO' to Iran's N-programme illogical, baseless: Experts

ISLAMABAD – Iran should be allowed to continue its peaceful nuclear programme, as it has every right to provide its people with their most basic need i.e. electricity, experts said on Saturday.
Speaking at a seminar ‘Iranian Nuclear Programme in Regional Perspective” held at the Iranian embassy, experts including Prof Dr Syed Riffat Hussein, Akram Zaki, Dr Tahir Ahmed Khan and Imtiaz Gul criticised the US policies saying the US and its allies needed not only to accept but also respect Iran’s growing role in the international community. The speakers defended Iran’s nuclear programme and asked the world community to immediately call off sanction against Iran.
Akram Zaki, former ambassador stated that the US and its allies also needed to stop their irrepressible tirade of threats against Iran.
“Any issue they have over Iran’s nuclear programme should be resolved with sincere democratic efforts. This situation, if not contained with cool head and if miscalculations continue, can easily turn into a crisis with potentially global ramifications for the rule of law under the NPT and for the economic and security interests of all concerned in the region and beyond,” he said adding that the world should not allow itself to be dragged into another conflict on false pretences in this region again.
“One often hears that Iran’s real purpose for pursuing nuclear technology is to develop nuclear weapons and that with its huge oil and gas reserves it has no real need for nuclear energy. I must say these claims are politically motivated and are based entirely on hatred and distrust towards the region and its people,” Akram Zaki said while addressing the seminar.
Dr Tahir Ahmed Khan said Uranium enrichment for a civilian nuclear programme was Iran’s inalienable right. “It cannot be taken away because of the West’s stereotypical suspension towards Iran.” “Iran has a real need for nuclear power and should be allowed to continue its civilian nuclear programme as there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons programme,” he said. Dr Tahir said adding that it was important to remember the history of Iran’s nuclear programme and its relation with the West to fully comprehend the enduring “crisis.”
Dr Tahir told the participants that Iran’s nuclear history pre-dated the current Islamic government, which is being accused of developing “weapons of mass destruction.” It originated in the mid-1970s when the US-installed dictator Shah unveiled plans to purchase several nuclear reactors from Germany, France and the United States to generate electricity. Shah was placed in power after the CIA Operation Ajax in 1953 destroyed Iran’s democracy and replaced it with a US-friendly dictatorship when their government negotiated for more than 15pc of oil profits. At that time, the United States encouraged Iran to expand its non-oil energy base. In recognition of Iran’s energy needs, US-Iran Nuclear Energy Agreement was signed in July 1978 - several months before the Islamic revolution.

The national security is the driving force for Iran. If security is good for Israel, then, it is also good for Turks, Persians and Arabs.

Israel is the only nuclear bomb state in the Middle East. A nuclear bomb free Middle East will remove pressure from all the other nations, including Iran to develop nuclear bomb in the future for deterrence against Israeli's nuclear bombs.

I suggest the following three steps to correct our failed foreign policy with respect to the Middle East:

1. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Iranian Consortium:
USA should join the Iranian nuclear fuel consortium. The other nation may include Japan, Germany, France, Russia and England to actively monitor the Iranian fuel cycle activity. IAEA has consistently asserted that the agency could not find any indications that Iran is diverting the fuel cycle for nuclear bomb development. Iran has asserted that their activities are limited to development of fuel for nuclear reactor.

2. Nuclear Shield:
An international nuclear shield for all nations in the Middle East, including Iran, Israel, Turkey and all the Arab nations in the region.

3. A nuclear- bomb-free Middle East:
This action will remove any pressure from Iran to develop nuclear bomb in the future for deterrence against nuclear bomb Israeli state.

but the main thing for the [International Atomic Energy Agency] is to watch what is going on. They are in the main enrichment plant twice a month on average and in the pilot plant where these centrifuges are operating about four times a month.

As long as the IAEA continues to have access to the plants it shouldn't be much of a problem. The Iranians couldn't produce weapons grade without the IAEA knowing about it.

As long as Iran's LEU is under the control of the IAEA and they are there to be in charge of what Iran is producing, then there should not be any issues with the Iranians nuclear program.

We should not give in to the Zionists propaganda and Iran phobia. The Iranians have not threaten their neighbors and the "Zogby" poll shows that the Arab neighbors of Iran are behind her and have nothing to worries about.

The rest is malarkey.


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