EU Experts: Iran could have enough uranium for a bomb by year end

Rick Moran
A European Union team of experts has calculated that there is an outisde chance Iran could have made enough highly enriched uranium to have the capability to build a nuclear bomb by the end of the year:

As part of a project to improve control of nuclear materials, the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy set up a detailed simulation of the centrifuges currently used by Iran in the Natanz nuclear facility to enrich uranium. The results look nothing like those reached by the US intelligence community.

For one scenario, the JRC scientists assumed the centrifuges in Natanz were operating at 100 percent efficiency. Were that the case, Iran could already have the 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium necessary for an atomic device by the end of this year. Another scenario assumed a much lower efficiency -- just 25 percent. But even then, Iran would have produced enough uranium by the end of 2010.

For the purposes of the simulation, the JRC modelled each of the centrifuges individually and then hooked them together to form the kind of cascade necessary to enrich uranium. A number of variables were taken into account, including the assumption by most experts that Iran isn't even close to operating its centrifuges at 100 percent efficiency. What is known, however, is that the Iranians are operating 18 cascades, each made up of 164 centrifuges. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself said last April that the country had 3,000 centrifuges in operation. At the time, most Western observers discounted the claim as mere propaganda. But the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Ahmadinejad's assertion in November.
This is an interesting story on a couple of levels. First, it shows that there are people in the world still taking the Iranian threat seriously despite Democrats and liberals in this country who have given the Iranians a clean bill of health on their nuclear program.

Second, the EU study will force the rest of the world to get busy on the third round of sanctions that are languishing at the moment due to objections by South Africa who want to wait for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohammed ElBaradei's next report on Iranian cooperation (due this weekend) as well as his "personal diplomacy" with the Iranians to run its current course.

Finally, it should be pointed out that from what
western experts know of the Iranian nuclear program today, the centrifuges are operating much closer to 25% efficiency than 100%. Also, there is no evidence - yet - that the Iranians are enriching uranium beyond the 5% threshold for civilian use. One would think that it would be difficult to hide the production of HE uranium with the IAEA sniffing around Nantanz on a regular basis. Traces would be virtually impossible to cover up.

This is not to say that the Iranians couldn't further enrich their stockpile of HE uranium at another location but again, that would be difficult to carry off since the IAEA is keeping track of how much uranium is being enriched by their centrifuges.

The problem will come when and if ElBaradei gives the Iranian program a clean bill of health and the IAEA cuts back on monitoring and inspections. That will be a danger point because given Iran's steady progress in setting up centrifuge cascades, the possibility that they could enrich uranium to the 85% level necessary to build a bomb without anyone knowing it rises substantially.

But Iran may have angered one of their best friends with a test of an ICBM early this month. Russia has indicated they will sign on to the new round of sanctions and have actually expressed their concern that the Iranian program is not on the up and up:

Iran’s ballistic missile tests last week have sparked unusually harsh criticism from Russia. According to the BBC, Russian officials have said the tests

raised suspicion over the true aim of [Iran’s] nuclear programme.


This is remarkable coming from Moscow, and the latest sign of a potentially significant shift in Russia’s stance on Iran.

Through 2007, Russia was the main obstacle in UNSC efforts to tighten the thumb screws on Iran, preferring bilateral diplomacy with Tehran over the international sanctions route.

This January, however, Russia finally agreed to a third sanctions resolution. Moscow also opposes the efforts of South Africa to delay the resolution.
Since China is expected to grudgingly abstain on a sanctions vote, everything seems to be on track for another round of punitive measures against the regime.
A European Union team of experts has calculated that there is an outisde chance Iran could have made enough highly enriched uranium to have the capability to build a nuclear bomb by the end of the year:

As part of a project to improve control of nuclear materials, the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy set up a detailed simulation of the centrifuges currently used by Iran in the Natanz nuclear facility to enrich uranium. The results look nothing like those reached by the US intelligence community.

For one scenario, the JRC scientists assumed the centrifuges in Natanz were operating at 100 percent efficiency. Were that the case, Iran could already have the 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium necessary for an atomic device by the end of this year. Another scenario assumed a much lower efficiency -- just 25 percent. But even then, Iran would have produced enough uranium by the end of 2010.

For the purposes of the simulation, the JRC modelled each of the centrifuges individually and then hooked them together to form the kind of cascade necessary to enrich uranium. A number of variables were taken into account, including the assumption by most experts that Iran isn't even close to operating its centrifuges at 100 percent efficiency. What is known, however, is that the Iranians are operating 18 cascades, each made up of 164 centrifuges. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself said last April that the country had 3,000 centrifuges in operation. At the time, most Western observers discounted the claim as mere propaganda. But the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Ahmadinejad's assertion in November.
This is an interesting story on a couple of levels. First, it shows that there are people in the world still taking the Iranian threat seriously despite Democrats and liberals in this country who have given the Iranians a clean bill of health on their nuclear program.

Second, the EU study will force the rest of the world to get busy on the third round of sanctions that are languishing at the moment due to objections by South Africa who want to wait for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohammed ElBaradei's next report on Iranian cooperation (due this weekend) as well as his "personal diplomacy" with the Iranians to run its current course.

Finally, it should be pointed out that from what
western experts know of the Iranian nuclear program today, the centrifuges are operating much closer to 25% efficiency than 100%. Also, there is no evidence - yet - that the Iranians are enriching uranium beyond the 5% threshold for civilian use. One would think that it would be difficult to hide the production of HE uranium with the IAEA sniffing around Nantanz on a regular basis. Traces would be virtually impossible to cover up.

This is not to say that the Iranians couldn't further enrich their stockpile of HE uranium at another location but again, that would be difficult to carry off since the IAEA is keeping track of how much uranium is being enriched by their centrifuges.

The problem will come when and if ElBaradei gives the Iranian program a clean bill of health and the IAEA cuts back on monitoring and inspections. That will be a danger point because given Iran's steady progress in setting up centrifuge cascades, the possibility that they could enrich uranium to the 85% level necessary to build a bomb without anyone knowing it rises substantially.

But Iran may have angered one of their best friends with a test of an ICBM early this month. Russia has indicated they will sign on to the new round of sanctions and have actually expressed their concern that the Iranian program is not on the up and up:

Iran’s ballistic missile tests last week have sparked unusually harsh criticism from Russia. According to the BBC, Russian officials have said the tests

raised suspicion over the true aim of [Iran’s] nuclear programme.


This is remarkable coming from Moscow, and the latest sign of a potentially significant shift in Russia’s stance on Iran.

Through 2007, Russia was the main obstacle in UNSC efforts to tighten the thumb screws on Iran, preferring bilateral diplomacy with Tehran over the international sanctions route.

This January, however, Russia finally agreed to a third sanctions resolution. Moscow also opposes the efforts of South Africa to delay the resolution.
Since China is expected to grudgingly abstain on a sanctions vote, everything seems to be on track for another round of punitive measures against the regime.