Speaking of Vienna, the IAEA DG report on Iran is on the ISIS website (Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007) and 1803 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, GOV/2008/38, 15 September 2008).
The bottom line is that Iran has 2,952 centrifuges in one module and 820-984 in a second. Overall, the Iranians seem to be moving right along. David Albright and Jackie Shire estimate the Iranians are operating the centrifuges about 85 percent of the time — which is consistent with what I see:
|Operating Period||Number||UF6 Fed (in KG)||Efficiency|
|12 December-06 May (146 days)||18-20||2,300||4,415-4,906||0.47-0.52|
|06 May-30 August (116 days)||18-23||3,630||3,508-4,482||0.81-1.03|
Author estimates derived from IAEA Reports.
Note that, with 103 percent of the minimum, we can’t exclude continuous operation of the A26 module over the most recent period.
Iran is also feeding hex into the IR-1, -2 and -3 centrifuges at the PFEP. (I still think we have the best open source discussion of the IR-3 right here on the blog.)
About that Hex (UF6)
A couple of days ago Con Coughlin and Tim Butcher published an article in the Daily Telegraph that stated Iran had diverted some Hex from the conversion facility as Isfahan:
Nuclear experts responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme have discovered that enough enriched uranium, which if processed to weapons grade level could be used to make up to six atom bombs, has disappeared from the main production facility at Isfahan.
The article smelled fishy to me, and not just because I think that wrapping fish and chips is the only appropriate use for the Telegraph.
The story seemed patently false, but now we have a statement from the IAEA’s Melissa Fleming. The statement is available from an Iranian website, but I confirmed the authenticity of the statement with a colleague:
“The article, entitled ‘Iran renews nuclear weapons development’ published in [Friday’s] Daily Telegraph by Con Coughlin and Tim Butcher is fictitious,” IAEA Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in a statement.
“IAEA inspectors have no indication that any nuclear material is missing from the plant,” reads the statement….
For emphasis, the DG’s Report also makes clear that all UF6 is under safeguards:
This brings the total amount of uranium in the form of UF6 produced at UCF since March 2004 to 342 tonnes, all of which remains under Agency containment and surveillance.
Even terrible reporting, however, can be a teachable moment. And I have been waiting for a good opportunity to share “The gas centrifuge and nuclear weapons proliferation” by Houston G. Wood, Alexander Glaser, and R. Scott Kemp. Wood et al argue in Physics Today that UF6 production is the easiest step to safeguard in the enrichment process:
Safeguards might also address the covert-facility problem by safeguarding flows of unenriched UF6, starting at the facilities where the UF6 is produced. Traditionally, that material has received relatively little attention. Monitoring unenriched UF6 more carefully can make its diversion to a covert plant more difficult. Thus, although direct detection of covert plants may not be possible, safeguards can make it more difficult to operate those plants with undeclared feed.
I learned a lot in that article; I hope you do too.