Jeffrey LewisIran Making Progress

ISIS has published the full text of the new DG Report on Implementation of Safeguards in Iran.

Eight cascades were operating and being fed on May 13, but don’t seem to be linked into a single unit:

Since the Director General’s last report, Iran has fed approximately 260 kg of UF6 into the cascades at FEP. Iran has declared that it has reached enrichment levels up to 4.8% U-235 at FEP, which the Agency is in the process of verifying. On 13 May 2007, eight 164-machine cascades were operating simultaneously and were being fed with UF6; two other similar cascades had been vacuum tested and three more were under construction.

260 kg since of UF6 is a more reasonable amount. Probably not full operation (I have to sit down this afternoon and make some educated guess about when the cascades came online). But Iran does seem to be making steady progress toward continuous operation of their centrifuges—maybe more than half the time, from a colleague’s back-of-the-envelope calculation.

Comments

  1. marley (History)

    given that at least two or three of the cascades have been operational and tested for quite some time, why do they seem to be delaying linking at least a few of the cascades? My impression has been that the operation of the linked cascasdes will be the real challenge – seems like they are moving very slowly in that regard for a country which could be on the receiving end of a few GBU-28s or BLU-118s not to mention that RNEP that Cheney keeps under his desk..just in case of course 🙂

  2. yale (History)

    Linking cascades is not strictly necessary. Batch processing is quite sufficient for weapons production (and confers some advantages).

    In any event, if the Iranians do link arrays, they may be waiting to build out the FEP in order to minimize the number of linkage steps (which are touchy)

  3. yale (History)

    Looks like Elbaradei still does not get it.

    Iran three to eight years from nuclear weapon: IAEA chief The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog said Thursday Iran could develop a nuclear weapon in three to eight years… Elbaradei said it was difficult to say exactly how far Iran was away from developing a nuclear weapon, should it want to do that, but added that he agreed with senior US officials that it could happen in the next decade.“In other words three to eight years from now,” he said.

    He needs to do the math…

    Copying my post from TotalWonkerr.com

    Let us assume that, due to bad hex, inexperience, bad luck, etc, the Iranians can only operate their centrifuges at the FEP with Separative Work performance of only 1.5 kg-SWU/yr, rather than the 2.5 kg-swu/yr that they have already demonstrated at the PFEP. Also assume that the 2100 centrifuges at the FEP, running or under constuction, are all that they can muster. Let us finally assume that they can only run them 75% of the time on average. What is the proliferation bottom line? It takes 4000 SWU to produce 20 kilograms of 90% enriched uranium. 20kg of HEU is suficient for one very conservative 1st generation atomic bomb, or several higher tech bombs. The Iranian FEP would (using my parameters) produce a bombs worth by December of 2008. Compare that to the ‘official” estimates of 2012-2015. Remember my calculations are biased heavily towards poor perfomance from the Iranian operations. Just for giggles (altho I am sure the Israelis have done the math, and are not amused), let us assume that the Iranians decide to screw the UN and divert the fresh fuel the Russians will deliver for Bushehr.With the performance I specified, Iran, with only 2100 centrifuges, produce a bomb in just 3 months.

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