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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Former UN inspector: Iran will have breakout capacity by late 2011 or early 2012. Maybe

In his second interview since leaving the IAEA and first with an Israeli media outlet, former IAEA chief inspector Olli Heinonen says that Iran could have breakout capacity by the end of 2011, and speculates over why they seem to be having so many problems with their centrifuges.
"The challenge faced by the international community in coping with Iran's nuclear effort is huge," he states in the interview. "We have about a year, until the end of 2011, or perhaps the start of 2012, to solve the problem."

What could happen then?

Heinonen: "What is called the 'break-out capacity.' Iran could announce that it is no longer party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, prohibit the inspectors from monitoring, remove cameras that relay the imagery to the IAEA, and act as it sees fit."

For years, the Iranians have alleged that some IAEA inspectors operate at the behest of "foreign elements" - meaning Israel and the United States. Iran has made a systematic attempt to undermine the IAEA's status: It bars the entry of inspectors it doesn't like, and claims that some sites are beyond the inspectors' purview. It also disregards decisions reached by the agency and by the UN Security Council.

Should Iran quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it would be able to enrich uranium at a level of 90 percent, and produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons, correct?

"Yes, correct."

Do you believe that Iran is taking steps toward the production of nuclear weapons?

"We do not have enough information about the military aspect of the Iranian nuclear program; we need information that Iran is avoiding supplying to us. But when you look at what is happening at Natanz [a facility for uranium enrichment], it becomes clear that they are having difficulty moving ahead with uranium enrichment. They have installed 8,000 centrifuges at the facility, but only 3,000 of these are currently operating, and they produce a steady monthly average of 120 kilograms of low-grade enriched uranium hexafluoride. They have today about three tons of low-grade enriched uranium."

That should be sufficient to allow them to build at least one bomb, should they decide to enrich to a higher grade of 90 percent. In fact, 1,000 centrifuges would suffice for the production of a nuclear weapon, no?

"The answer is yes and no. Theoretically, that is correct, but in reality, their situation is much more complicated. The centrifuges are not operating well, and some of them are failing. They are losing materials because of this; and so, with this defective equipment, they will have a hard time enriching the material to a level high enough to enable the production of nuclear weapons. They have a lot of problems, and they are not there yet."
Read the whole thing. Haaretz lets the IAEA off too easily in my opinion, but I guess they decided there was no point in arguing about it. I finished reading this interview with a sense that the IAEA knows even less about Iran's program than I previously thought they did.

What could go wrong?


At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following is from an interview the head of the IAEA ELBARADEI did in January 2006. -- DICKEY: But there´s another problem. Even if the declared nuclear research is all that Iran has going, there´s nothing in the Non-Proliferation Treaty itself to prevent them from enriching uranium - which they say is their right. They could get to the point of producing their own nuclear fuel, or bomb material, then tell you, "We´re pulling out of the treaty."

ELBARADEI: Sure. And if they have the nuclear material and they have a parallel weaponization program along the way, they are really not very far - a few months - from a weapon. ------------- That was back in 2006, since then we have found out that Iran did have secret programs. What is the international community waiting for? Here is a link to the article I quoted from. http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Transcripts/2006/newsweek12012006.html


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