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Iran Non-Story of The Day: Tehran Has a Plutonium Reactor!

Iran's heavy-water reactor at Arak --- still not an imminent threat to humanity

George Jahn of The Associated Press believes he has a dramatic exclusive this morning:

While international diplomacy has focused on trying to prevent Iran from using enriched uranium to produce nuclear arms, concern is growing about another rapidly advancing project that could supply plutonium for a nuclear weapon....

The United States and its allies worry about the plutonium reactor at Arak, southwest of Tehran. U.S. envoy Joseph Macmanus told a recent meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — that the reactor is "of increasing concern" as its startup date approaches. Israel, which has taken a lead in criticizing Iran's nuclear program, is even more concerned.

Only one problem: the story is old, having been pushed by unnamed "Western officials" last month.

Make that two problems: it is not much of a story.

Britan's Daily Telegraph put out Jahn's line on 27 February and at much greater length, ""Iran's Plan B for a Nuclear Bomb". It expended print on two articles which offered little more than the confirmed facts the Islamic Republic has been building a heavy-water nuclear plant at Arak since 2004, and that the production of plutonium is a natural by-product of the reactor's process.

Joanna Paraszczuk and I concluded, in a comprehensive dissection of the supposed revelations:

Even the Telegraph's main source for analysis says that there is nothing of substance in the story.

Even the Telegraph --- in the midst of its own supposed conclusive exclusive about Iran's "Plan B" --- admits there is nothing: "The country still lacks the technology to reprocess plutonium and use it for a weapon."

None of this will prevent the story racing across other newspapers and websites.

But Jahn goes farther. He does not just repeat the Telegraph's claims, without checking them: he claims them as his.

Indeed, he uses the exact same source --- Mark Fitzpatrick, the analyst who eventually said that the Telegraph's claim was not that significantly, really --- to put out his supposedly-new story:

Telegraph, 27 February: "The option of a military strike on an operating reactor would present enormous complications because of the radiation that would be spread," he explained.

Associated Press, 21 March: Hitting "an operating reactor would present enormous complications because of the radiation that would be spread," said former senior U.S. State Department official Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

But, as we concluded last month, "Re-spinning the assertions does not make them true."

Even Jahn seems to know this, deep down. Or even not so deep down, as the second paragraph of his article testifies, "Tehran hopes to have a plutonium-producing reactor up and running next year, part of a nuclear program that the Iranians insist is designed to produce electricity and material for medical and scientific research — not for bombs."

So here's the question: Given that the story is not new, given that is not much beyond that basic description of the reactor....

Which officials spun Jahn to re-issue a supposed exclusive?

And why now?

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