New IAEA Report on Iran: More Enrichment

by Patrick Brennan

Apparently even the International Atomic Energy Agency has gotten into the practice of Friday-afternoon news dumps, releasing its most recent report on the state of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program last Friday afternoon. While the report didn’t contain any earth-shattering news, it was hardly encouraging, either, as Iran has continued and expanded its fuel-enrichment activities. Foreign Policy reports:

Iran continues to build both stocks of low-enriched uranium, and new production capacity.  Moreover, Iran is producing uranium enriched to about 3.5 percent, which it has been doing since 2006, and to almost 20 percent, which it has done for about a year.  Stocks of the former stand at almost six tons; and of the latter, at about 220 lbs. Monthly outputs of both enrichment levels are at all time highs, and Iranian engineers are apparently adding new production capacity to Natanz and the newer deep underground facility at Fordow. . . .

If further enriched to weapons grade, depending on the amount of processing waste, the material Iran now has on hand could be enough for several nuclear weapons. . . .

The IAEA also reported that its latest efforts to resolve issues with Iran, including two recent trips to Tehran, met with no joy.  Iran continued to refuse inspectors access to Parchin, a military complex suspected of nuclear activities. Iranian negotiators simply dismissed the Agency’s detailed November 2011 report on indicators of a nuclear explosive program.

Thus, while the situation has basically deteriorated, it also hasn’t fundamentally changed: From the November 2011 report, we knew that Iran is working to develop the components of a nuclear weapon, and from this report, we know that they have continued and increased their efforts to develop the necessary nuclear material; its shift toward production at Fordow, an underground facility near Qom, is worrisome too. But, as General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, argued last week, this evidence together still does not indicate that Iran is currently building a nuclear weapon per se.