Iran raises uranium output

Rick Moran
Bloomberg doesn't exactly downplay the news, but it's impact cannot be overstated.

Iran upping their efforts to mine more uranium points to one, logical answer; somewhere in that country is another working enrichment facility that no one knows about. Yes, that's not the only explanation. They may be trying to stockpile mined uranium for their known enrichment facility at Natanz. Why they would do so is not clear but it is still a possibility.

But this is an extremely worrying development given the real possibility that the Iranian covert program is a lot larger than even our most pessimistic estimates might have revealed.

Jonathan Tirone:

Evidence of stepped-up activity at the Gchine mine, near the Persian Gulf coast city of Bandar Abbas, is seen in pictures obtained by Bloomberg News and the Washington-based New America Foundation, according to four nuclear analysts who examined the images. The mine could produce enough uranium to craft at least two atomic bombs a year, experts said.The photographs, taken on April 26 and Oct. 3 by DigitalGlobe Inc. and GeoEye Inc., two U.S. commercial satellite companies, show Iran increased the rate at which it pumps waste from the mine during the intervening months. Iran has filled one waste pool since November 2008, when a previous photograph was taken, and built a second pond with pipes connecting it to processing tanks that separate the metal from rock.

"Iran's decision to expand mining and milling at Bandar Abbas seems to validate the suspicions of those who think it was the main uranium site for a covert program," Jeffrey G. Lewis, nuclear strategy and non-proliferation director at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute, said in an Oct. 20 interview.

The increased uranium production indicates that United Nations inspectors need to widen their field of vision beyond facilities such as Iran's uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz and its Esfahan conversion facility, Lewis and other analysts said. The UN's nuclear agency should renew demands to inspect research labs, machine shops and mines including Gchine, they added.

After much crowing over a supposed "agreement" reached with the Iranians early last month in Vienna to transfer about half of their low enriched uranium to Russia for processing, the White House has been silent about Ahmadinejad's total rejection of that pact. No new talks are scheduled. All we have is the White House's stubborn refusal to drop this outreach madness and get busy organizing the world to drop the hammer on some serious sanctions that would cripple the regime.

Instead, Israel views the efforts of western governments and knows that time is growing ever shorter if the world is to stop Iran from developing the capability to build a bomb.

Then, there's this:

Inspectors don't know whether all of the mine's output is going to Esfahan for conversion, whether some is being stockpiled at the mine or whether it is being secretly transferred to an undeclared site, said Persbo. Iran hasn't reported details of the output. 

It is not the known parts of the Iranian program that should worry us. Most of that is for show anyway. It is the ever growing possibility that there is a vast, covert effort underway to build a bomb. Obviously, the unknowable also makes it difficult to undertake military action against the Iranian program. 

The clock is ticking in Tel Aviv and a decision for war or peace is probably just weeks away.





Bloomberg doesn't exactly downplay the news, but it's impact cannot be overstated.

Iran upping their efforts to mine more uranium points to one, logical answer; somewhere in that country is another working enrichment facility that no one knows about. Yes, that's not the only explanation. They may be trying to stockpile mined uranium for their known enrichment facility at Natanz. Why they would do so is not clear but it is still a possibility.

But this is an extremely worrying development given the real possibility that the Iranian covert program is a lot larger than even our most pessimistic estimates might have revealed.

Jonathan Tirone:

Evidence of stepped-up activity at the Gchine mine, near the Persian Gulf coast city of Bandar Abbas, is seen in pictures obtained by Bloomberg News and the Washington-based New America Foundation, according to four nuclear analysts who examined the images. The mine could produce enough uranium to craft at least two atomic bombs a year, experts said.

The photographs, taken on April 26 and Oct. 3 by DigitalGlobe Inc. and GeoEye Inc., two U.S. commercial satellite companies, show Iran increased the rate at which it pumps waste from the mine during the intervening months. Iran has filled one waste pool since November 2008, when a previous photograph was taken, and built a second pond with pipes connecting it to processing tanks that separate the metal from rock.

"Iran's decision to expand mining and milling at Bandar Abbas seems to validate the suspicions of those who think it was the main uranium site for a covert program," Jeffrey G. Lewis, nuclear strategy and non-proliferation director at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute, said in an Oct. 20 interview.

The increased uranium production indicates that United Nations inspectors need to widen their field of vision beyond facilities such as Iran's uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz and its Esfahan conversion facility, Lewis and other analysts said. The UN's nuclear agency should renew demands to inspect research labs, machine shops and mines including Gchine, they added.

After much crowing over a supposed "agreement" reached with the Iranians early last month in Vienna to transfer about half of their low enriched uranium to Russia for processing, the White House has been silent about Ahmadinejad's total rejection of that pact. No new talks are scheduled. All we have is the White House's stubborn refusal to drop this outreach madness and get busy organizing the world to drop the hammer on some serious sanctions that would cripple the regime.

Instead, Israel views the efforts of western governments and knows that time is growing ever shorter if the world is to stop Iran from developing the capability to build a bomb.

Then, there's this:

Inspectors don't know whether all of the mine's output is going to Esfahan for conversion, whether some is being stockpiled at the mine or whether it is being secretly transferred to an undeclared site, said Persbo. Iran hasn't reported details of the output. 

It is not the known parts of the Iranian program that should worry us. Most of that is for show anyway. It is the ever growing possibility that there is a vast, covert effort underway to build a bomb. Obviously, the unknowable also makes it difficult to undertake military action against the Iranian program. 

The clock is ticking in Tel Aviv and a decision for war or peace is probably just weeks away.