Jeffrey LewisIAEA GOV/2006/15

Here is the latest IAEA Report by the Director General concerning Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran is flat out denying the Green Salt claim:

38. On 5 December 2005, the Secretariat repeated its request for a meeting to discuss information that had been made available to the Secretariat about alleged studies, known as the Green Salt Project, concerning the conversion of uranium dioxide into UF4 (often referred to as “green salt”), as well as tests related to high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could involve nuclear material and which appear to have administrative interconnections. On 16 December 2005, Iran replied that the “issues related to baseless allegations.” Iran agreed on 23 January 2006 to a meeting with the DDG-SG for the clarification of the alleged Green Salt Project, but declined to address the other topics during that meeting. In the course of the meeting, which took place on 27 January 2006, the Agency presented for Iran’s review a copy of a process flow diagram related to bench scale conversion and a number of communications related to the project. Iran reiterated that all national nuclear projects are conducted by the AEOI, that the allegations were baseless and that it would provide further clarifications later.

39. On 26 February 2006, the DDG-SG met with Iranian authorities to discuss the alleged Green Salt Project. Iran repeated that the allegations “are based on false and fabricated documents so they were baseless,” and that neither such a project nor such studies exist or did exist. It stated that all national efforts had been devoted to the UCF project, and that it would not make sense to develop indigenous capabilities to produce UF4 when such technology had already been acquired from abroad. According to information provided earlier by Iran, the company alleged to have been associated with the so-called Green Salt Project had, however, been involved in procurement for UCF and in the design and construction of the Gchine ore processing plant.

The United States is going to look fantastically stupid if the laptop story turns out to be bogus.

One new detail, the process flow that the IAEA showed the Iranians was for “bench-scale” conversion—in other words, the facility was essentially a laboratory with very little capacity.

That answers one of the questions I asked last week: “Why hide a large scale production facility under a mountain if you just plan to truck the UF4 to a different facility some place? Doesn’t exposing shipments to interdiction undermine the security created by burying the facility?”

It isn’t a large-scale production facility.

I still want to know the process for making UF4, particularly the method for removing impurities. That might shed more light on this claim.


Ever wonder about terms like bench-scale and bread board?

Me, too.

In a research call to the national laboratories, DOE drafted a relatively readable description of various levels of technological maturity that nevertheless unleashed this wonder of the English language:

Technical feasibility should be demonstrated through component bench-scale testing with at least a laboratory bread board of the concept.

Listed as “Technology Maturation Stage 3 – Exploratory Development.”


On a related note, I finally got my copy of A. Perez, Du concentré d’uranium à l’hexafluorure, Electricité (December 1981) 31-38, detailing operations at France’s Malvesi UF4 plant.

It’s boring, not terribly helpful and in French. Good luck.

Paul Adds:

“Bench Scale”…not so new.

From the 31 January Heinonen report to the BoG:

“the Agency presented for Iran’s review a copy of a process flow diagram related to bench scale conversion and communications related to the project.”



  1. Yale Simkin (History)

    Dr. Jeffery wrote:
    “It isn’t a large-scale production facility.”

    It is important not to arrive at a stronger conclusion than the evidence warrants. The IAEA may be slowly developing a case.
    They may be winding thru the evidence in a specific order.
    In any event, there is no reason to assume that laboratory, pilot, and production facilities would not be co-located. (That would, in fact, be the preferred arrangement.)


    “Ever wonder about terms like bench-scale and bread board?”

    I go back to the time when point-to-point wiring was just giving way to printed circuit boards. I used to use perforated aluminum boxes as breadboards. Going w..a..y.. back (even before my time), actual breadboards (and similar sized planks) were used by experimenters and amateurs. Here is an antique breadboarded amateur radio:

    As to “bench-scale” here is a literal lab workbench solvent-extraction system installed in Iran:

    For comparison, here is a turn-key, 200 liter per minute, full-scale solvent-extractor for uranium installed in Oklahoma. It would fit in a garage:

    As to the process, it is rather simple in concept.

    You start with the uranium in a form soluble in water.
    An organic liquid contains an extractant.
    The two liquids are combined.
    The extractant reacts with the uranium and forms a new substance which now is no longer soluble in water but only in the organic liquid.

    The metal gets carried away dissolved in the organic liquid and the impurities remain in the water.



  2. Siddharth

    The uestion I asked earlier on green salt remains: How come the CIA or whoevber found the so-called briefcase never spoke about this last year when a number of countries, and the IAEA, were briefed on its contents before the crucial September IAEA BoG meet?

  3. Cheryl Rofer (History)

    The second link, of the 200 lps array, doesn’t work for me.

    But thanks for the photos. I’ve been thinking of pulling out my photos and scanning them all week.

  4. Yale Simkin (History)

    “The second link, of the 200 lps array, doesn’t work for me.”

    I graduated from to the Chernobyl School of Quality Control.
    Change the “ftp://” to “http://” and the link for the 200 liters per minute uranium solvent extractor plant will work.

  5. JS Narins (History)

    America will look stupid?

    I’d never heard of the Green Salt story until now, and I like to think I stay on top of recent Iran war-mongering.

  6. John Field (History)

    Moly presents a problem because MoF6 can solidify in the centrifuges since its b.p. is about right for that.

    As we know, the problematic part of UF4 is the selectivity in the solvent extraction process. In addition to molybdenum, there would almost certainly be lots of lanthanides and other stuff in there. Most likely, you can’t remove all of this with one extraction reagent. And, the desired selectivity is difficult to achieve. Therefore, the extraction process needs to be specially designed to remove these things and takes place in many stages.

    I found an article on chelating oxime extractants that discusses the use of a reagent called LIX63 for removing moly from uranium leach. They suggest Vanadium may also be a problem. I posted it – look at pages 6-8 :

    An interesting history and chemical formulae(see Figure 2) of these chelating extractants for copper extraction is also posted at :

    It appears to me that it would have been useful for the US government to have developed an oxime chemistry specifically for uranium purification similar to but better than LIX63. If so, that may well be classified, but I guess that it could be redeveloped.

    UF4 is made from UO2 by reaction with HF at 300 -> 600 deg C in a mixing reactor made of Inconel(high temperature, oxidation resistent alloy kind of like stainless steel). Nothing special here, I think.

    In a nutshell, it doesn’t look like this is a world-class ‘stopper’ problem for the Iranians to overcome. It’s just one more of a million little hurdles to surpass on their long road to the fulfillment of their idiotic visionary dream of wasting Israel contemporaneous with their own vaporization.

  7. Yale Simkin (History)

    The nightmare option is if the proposed enrichment partnership with Russia occurs. All their technical issues will be resolved and their people trained. If the partnership occurs in Russia, then the Iranians will have access to much more advanced technology to clone. Terrible, terrible precedent….

    This is what happened with India.



  8. Wayne Smith (History)

    All of this was bound to happen. I told you as much years ago Mr Yale. Don’t you remember? The Non-Proliferation Treaty is nothing more than an antiquated piece of parchment no longer worth the paper its written on. Ofcourse Iran is building nukes. Why shouldn’t they? According to the NPT America should be disarming. Ofcourse it isn’t and won’t. In fact it is developing a whole new generation of nukes. Therefore the NPT is worthless. Nobody is adhering to it anyway. Proliferation will continue until a superior weapon is created. Just as I told you. Remember when you said no country would ever withdraw from the NPT for fear of being bombed by America? How is your memory nowadays Mr Yale?