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Iran Analysis: Hype & Substance --- 3 Key Points on Latest IAEA Nuclear Report

The International Atomic Energy Agency has completed its latest quarterly report on Iran's nuclear programe. As always, extracts were leaked by "Western diplomats" to compliant reporters to portray an escalating Iranian threat, buttressed by "analysis" from the Institute for Science and International Security.

So, cutting through the propaganda, what are the significant points about the report?


20% Uranium

Tehran has continued to produce 20% enriched uranium at the Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities. The rate of increase is limited, however: there are only 182 kilogrammes of 20% uranium as hexafluoride gas, a rise of 9% from the February 2013 report.

The total is still short of the 250 kilogrammes which could potentially be elevated to 90% enrichment and used for one atomic bomb.

Another 142 kilograms of 20% percent material has been converted to uranium oxide to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Significantly, that is an increase of almost 30% on February.

In other words, of the additional 20% uranium produced since February, two-thirds was converted to uranium oxide to civilian-only use.


Iran has now installed almost 700 IR-2Ms centrifuges at its Natanz plant, replaced the 1970s-edition IR-1 model. However, the centrifuges are not yet producing enriched uranium, let alone 20% stock.

Iran has also installed two new types of centrifuges, the IR-6 and the IR-6S, in the research and development area at Natanz.


Iran is continuing to develop its heavy water reactor at Arak, despite United Nations Security Council resolutions calling on Tehran to halt construction.

Tehran says it plans to complete the reactor in 2014 and use it to produce medical isotopes; however, Western countries are concerned that plutonium, a by-product of processing, could be used in a military programme.

If Arak functions at optimal capacity, it could produce 9 kilogrammes of plutonium each year, enough for approximately 1.5 nuclear weapons. However, Iran does not have a reprocessing facility for separation of the plutonium.

The IAEA has asked Iran for updated information on the Arak reactor.


Of course, "Western diplomats" keen on portraying an imminent Iranian menace did not give this nuanced critique of the report. Instead, they fed the "right" summary to reporters such as George Jahn of Associated Press.

Jahn dutifully put out the scare line of Iran's "advanced" IR-2M centrifuges, failing to note that: 1) the centrifuges are not operational; and 2) his "Western diplomats" were declaring 3000 centrifuges in January, more than four times the number in this week's report.

Reuters chose plutonium for its scary headline, summarising that "Iran is pressing ahead with the construction of [the Arak] research reactor" without considering: 1) other countries use plutonium by-product for civilian uses; 2) there is no indication that Iran is going to use plutonium for military purposes; 3) indeed, Iran has no capability to re-process the plutonium for such purposes.

The Institute for Science and International Security put out a press release that the imminent sign of threat was paving at the Parchin military base, claiming that this proves Iran conducted nuclear experiments years ago.


Despite the hype, the IAEA report is likely to fade quickly.

That is because Western governments do not want a showdown with Iran over the nuclear issue in the near-future. The US and Britain, among others, are on a "hold" while awaiting the outcome of June's Presidential election, and the 5+1 Powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency both signalled business-as-usual with talks with Tehran in May.

Instead, it will be the August IAEA report --- and the propaganda around it --- that will be significant. There is a good possibility that Washington and European allies will put a final "take it or leave it" offer to Iran at talks in September between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers --- even if the US and Britain are unclear what they will do if Iran "leaves it".

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