IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear activities

In its latest report on nuclear activities in Iran, released 6 September, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) records that current Iranian estimates put total low-enriched uranium production at its Natanz enrichment site up to 6 August 2010 at some 2,803kg. That represents a rise of around 15 per cent since the last IAEA report on Iran came out in May. Furthermore, said the report, ‘Iran has estimated that between 9 February 2010 and 20 August 2010…22 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 was produced,’ ostensibly destined for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Diversion to an undisclosed weapons programme—whether now or in the future—remains the principal fear, however. Once at 20 per cent purity, reaching the high percentage purity most suitable for use in a nuclear weapon is an easier undertaking. By the 20 per cent stage, most of the hard work of enrichment has already been done. And as the report makes clear, ‘possible military dimensions’ to the Iranian nuclear programme remain a major concern at the Agency. Iran has also now reportedly finished studies to identify locations for ten new uranium enrichment facilities and will start building one next year. In response to a request for preliminary design information on the facility, Iran stated that the required information would be communicated to the Agency ‘in due time’.

Elsewhere, the report notes that the Agency has now informed Iran’s representative at the IAEA that ‘the repeated objection by Iran to the designation of inspectors with experience in Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle hampers the inspection process’ and ‘detracts’ from the Agency’s ability to properly implement safeguards in the country. The IAEA has also reportedly requested that Iran reconsider its 2007 decision to blacklist 38 Agency inspectors and its blacklisting of four others in 2006. More recently, as the last issue of Trust & Verify reported more fully, Iran ruled in June that a pair of IAEA inspectors were henceforth barred from the country for filing an allegedly false report to the Agency. That ruling, strongly contested by the IAEA at the time, comes under further fire in the September report, with the Agency arguing that, while Iran’s safeguards agreement gives it the right to object to the designation of specific inspectors, it ‘rejects the basis upon which Iran has sought to justify its objection in this case.’ Echoing earlier statements, the Agency notes its ‘full confidence in the professionalism and impartiality of the inspectors concerned, as it has in all of its inspectors.’

David Cliff, London.