Paul KerrIran to Resume Uranium Enrichment?

That’s what Jacqueline Shire is reporting over at ABCNews.com:

Sources with knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program tell ABC News that a senior Iranian official notified the IAEA verbally over the weekend of its intention to introduce uranium hexafluoride gas, or UF6, into centrifuges at a facility in Natanz, 150 miles south of Tehran.

Introducing UF6 into centrifuges is the necessary step in producing enriched uranium. The centrifuges work by separating out uranium-235 atoms, which can be used to make nuclear weapons and also to fuel nuclear reactors, from heavier uranium-238 atoms.

This would suck.

I am, I admit, a bit surprised by this news. When I first heard about Iran’s intentions to conduct additional nuclear research, my thoughts were similar to Robert Einhorn’s:

“When we learned last week that Iran was going to resume some ‘research and development’ work at Natanz, we assumed there would be some modest initial activity, such as the production of centrifuge components, but this is a much bigger step,” said Robert Einhorn a former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation”

I wasn’t sure they’d even go that far. Presumably, the Iranians could conduct research that would technically fall within the scope of the November 2004 agreement suspending:

… all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, and specifically: the manufacture and import of gas centrifuges and their components; the assembly, installation, testing or operation of gas centrifuges; work to undertake any plutonium separation, or to construct or operate any plutonium separation installation; and all tests or production at any uranium conversion installation.

It’ll be illuminating if/when documentation of Iran’s notification to the IAEA becomes available.

One possibility: this verbal notification may be Iran’s way of gauging the international community’s reaction.

I say that because several recent Iranian statements suggested that they wouldn’t start enriching uranium.

For instance, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamid-Reza Asefi said 3 January that “nuclear research has nothing to do with enrichment and production of atomic fuel.”

According to the Mehr News Agency, Mohammad Saeedi, Deputy Director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization issued a similar statement the same day. He added that Tehran “had not yet made a final decision on producing nuclear fuel.”

Of course, they could just be torturing the definition of “producing nuclear fuel.”

Wrong week to quit sniffing glue…

Comments

  1. Arnold Evans

    I have some questions if anyone is knowledgeable. On Friday the five UNSC powers were working on a demarche that would condemn Iran, but over the weekend that failed and there were five separate communications from each UNSC permanent member that, according to reports “say about the same thing”. The obvious questions: what do they say, what makes them not say exactly the same thing?

    Another question: If there is no threat of force that will work, what can the EU or the US offer in terms of certain concrete economic benefits if Iran gives up its right to enrich? I have not seen any indication of any offer beyond an offer to improve economic relations in a non-specific way at some non-specific time in the future.

    What does it mean if the EU is unwilling or unable to make any solid offer at all in exchange for the very concrete demands it is placing on Iran? Does that mean that on some level, the West does not want to resolve the issue of enrichment?

  2. sjh

    it’s all about china and trade. uk, us, fr are on board with SC action. rus says “abstain”. when/if we get china into the abstain column we’ll build sanctions against iran. i’ve long thought that bush was going to withdraw from iraq to focus on iran. given this admin’s track record of using the SC to “legalize” their unilateral military maneuvers, i’d be shocked if this is a genuine turn toward the UN. more likely, it’s cover for their next occupation.

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