Iran has centrifuges installed at various locations, with the holy city of Qom being a newly publicized site. Bruno argues that dozens of these sites are considered major nuclear sites and the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center is “suspected of housing Iran’s weapons program.” A facility at Natanz is also under investigation, where Pakistani centrifuges (first generation IR-1) work to enrich the uranium to higher levels. Bruno gives this insight in the enrichment process and what Iran is capable of:
“Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent of the uranium-235 isotope, and generally, light-water power reactors require enrichment levels of 3 percent to 5 percent (levels of low-enriched uranium, or LEU). Weapons-grade uranium–also known as highly-enriched uranium, or HEU–is around 90 percent (technically, HEU is any concentration over 20 percent, but weapons-grade levels are described as being in excess of 90 percent). According to the IAEA, Iran is capable of enriching to about 4.7 percent.”
With the amount that Iran is possibly stockpiling, expert on Iran’s nuclear program and president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), David Albright, argues that enough weapons-grade uranium could be achieved within a couple of months. He states that about 2.77kg per day are being produced, reaching their goal of the necessary 25kg within that timeframe.
To many experts it seems obvious that Iran is clearly working on nuclear weapons as the facility at Qom could possibly hold as many as 3,000 centrifuge machines. While this may be too small for a commercial use for production of energy, one official says “if you want to use the facility in order to produce a small amount of weapons-grade uranium, enough for a bomb or two a year, it’s the right size.”
While sanctions against Iran continue, Albright believes that enrichment capabilities are improving and concerns continue to rise in the light of intelligence pointing to past attempts at achieving nuclear status. The degree of cooperation of Iranian officials makes it difficult to determine the intent of its nuclear ambitions, but at the moment the US continues its efforts to sanction, block and ban deals made with Iran to keep the amount of uranium and enrichment to a minimum.
As Bruno outlines a brief history of the nuclear ambitions and relations between the United States and Iran, it is obvious that this always has been a sensitive issue. The US has backed Iran’s progress and then backed off, while still supporting Israel in its proliferation of nuclear weapons. With recent news about the claim of a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US, it is difficult to judge Iran’s standpoint, especially given the eccentricity seen in Ahmandinejad. The development of the nuclear sector of Iran, be it solely for energy purposes or also for nuclear ambitions will be interesting to cover for several years to come, and as long as Iran keeps quiet about its plans and blocks IAEA scientists from enrichment facilities, western powers will not know for sure what is going on within the borders.
The original article can be found here.