Tehran Agrees to "Cooperate" with IAEA

Rick Moran
Slowly, grudgingly, the mullahs in Tehran are giving in to UN demands for inspections of their nuclear facilities. Just last week, Iran agreed to a timetable for allowing inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to examine much of their uranium enrichment program.

Now the Iranian government has agreed to allow IAEA personnel to inspect what the US believes is a dual-purpose site, used both for civilian and military projects:

Public mention of the "Green Salt Project" first surfaced in an IAEA report drawn up last year.

The report voiced concern that under the "Green Salt Project," conversion of uranium — a precursor of enrichment — was linked to suspected tests of "high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could have a military nuclear dimension."

Diplomats familiar with the report said the IAEA was basing its concerns on several pages of U.S. intelligence that had been declassified and shared with agency officials so that they could confront the Iranians with it. Among the links, they said, was the participation of several officials on conversion, high explosives — which can be used to detonate a nuclear charge — and warhead design work.
A couple of things should be pointed out about Iran's nuclear program.

First, no matter what the inspectors find, it won't be conclusive. This is the nature of uranium enrichment. The exact same processes used to enrich uranium to low levels suitable for power plants is also used to enrich it to higher levels to make bombs. Iran could enrich a couple of hundred pounds of uranium to power plant levels and then,  in a crisis, further enrich that same uranium and have a bomb in a matter of weeks (as long as they have a reliable design).
 

Secondly, the Iranian program was clandestine for so long - more than a decade - that discovering all of its secrets is a monumental task. What makes the situation so dangerous is that we just don't know much about some of their facilities - especially as they relate to the making of plutonium which is done in so-called "heavy water" reactors and is simply a matter of taking the irradiated fuel elements and chemically extracting the plutonium. For all we know, the Iranians could have a supply of plutonium on hand already although the CIA doubts it.

Finally, if the Iranians are using the "Green Salt Project" for nefarious purposes, you can bet they cleaned up any evidence of it already. This incident points to the necessity of allowing the IAEA unfettered access to all nuclear sites in Iran - what the UN is demanding - as well as the ability to make surprise inspections.

Only then can we be reasonably sure that the Iranian program is, "as advertised" and not a clandestine effort to build the bomb.
Slowly, grudgingly, the mullahs in Tehran are giving in to UN demands for inspections of their nuclear facilities. Just last week, Iran agreed to a timetable for allowing inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to examine much of their uranium enrichment program.

Now the Iranian government has agreed to allow IAEA personnel to inspect what the US believes is a dual-purpose site, used both for civilian and military projects:

Public mention of the "Green Salt Project" first surfaced in an IAEA report drawn up last year.

The report voiced concern that under the "Green Salt Project," conversion of uranium — a precursor of enrichment — was linked to suspected tests of "high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could have a military nuclear dimension."

Diplomats familiar with the report said the IAEA was basing its concerns on several pages of U.S. intelligence that had been declassified and shared with agency officials so that they could confront the Iranians with it. Among the links, they said, was the participation of several officials on conversion, high explosives — which can be used to detonate a nuclear charge — and warhead design work.
A couple of things should be pointed out about Iran's nuclear program.

First, no matter what the inspectors find, it won't be conclusive. This is the nature of uranium enrichment. The exact same processes used to enrich uranium to low levels suitable for power plants is also used to enrich it to higher levels to make bombs. Iran could enrich a couple of hundred pounds of uranium to power plant levels and then,  in a crisis, further enrich that same uranium and have a bomb in a matter of weeks (as long as they have a reliable design).
 

Secondly, the Iranian program was clandestine for so long - more than a decade - that discovering all of its secrets is a monumental task. What makes the situation so dangerous is that we just don't know much about some of their facilities - especially as they relate to the making of plutonium which is done in so-called "heavy water" reactors and is simply a matter of taking the irradiated fuel elements and chemically extracting the plutonium. For all we know, the Iranians could have a supply of plutonium on hand already although the CIA doubts it.

Finally, if the Iranians are using the "Green Salt Project" for nefarious purposes, you can bet they cleaned up any evidence of it already. This incident points to the necessity of allowing the IAEA unfettered access to all nuclear sites in Iran - what the UN is demanding - as well as the ability to make surprise inspections.

Only then can we be reasonably sure that the Iranian program is, "as advertised" and not a clandestine effort to build the bomb.