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UN’s IAEA: Iran Has Overcome All Nuke Hurdles

From a positively giddy New York Times:

Iranian soldiers gather around an anti-aircraft machinegun inside the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, 300 kms south of Tehran, March 2006. Iran blocked UN atomic experts on a first unannounced test inspection of an underground nuclear site where it enriches uranium, despite a pledge to allow such visits, diplomats told AFP Thursday.

Inspectors Cite Big Gain by Iran on Nuclear Fuel

By DAVID E. SANGER

VIENNA, May 14 — Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran appears to have solved most of its technological problems and is now beginning to enrich uranium on a far larger scale than before, according to the agency’s top officials.

The findings may change the calculus of diplomacy in Europe and in Washington, which has aimed to force a suspension of Iran’s enrichment activities in large part to prevent it from learning how to produce weapons-grade material.

In a short-notice inspection of Iran’s main nuclear facility at Natanz on Sunday, conducted in advance of a report to the United Nations Security Council due early next week, the inspectors found that Iranian engineers were already using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors, according to diplomats and nuclear experts here. Until recently, the Iranians were having difficulty keeping the delicate centrifuges spinning at the tremendous speeds necessary to make nuclear fuel, and often were running them empty, or not at all.

Now, those roadblocks appear to have been surmounted. “We believe they pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the energy agency, who clashed with the Bush administration four years ago when he declared that there was no evidence that Iraq had resumed its nuclear program. “From now on, it is simply a question of perfecting that knowledge. People will not like to hear it, but that’s a fact.”

It is unclear whether Iran can sustain its recent progress. Major setbacks are common in uranium enrichment, and experts say it is entirely possible that miscalculation, equipment failures or sabotage could prevent the Iranian government from reaching its goal of producing fuel on what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasts is “an industrial scale.” 

It is unclear whether Iran can sustain its recent progress. Major setbacks are common in uranium enrichment, and experts say it is entirely possible that miscalculation, equipment failures or sabotage could prevent the Iranian government from reaching its goal of producing fuel on what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasts is “an industrial scale.”

The material produced so far would have to undergo further enrichment before it could be transformed into bomb-grade material, and to accomplish that Iran would probably have to evict the I.A.E.A. inspectors, as North Korea did four years ago….

I had foolishly thought that the UN inspectors were supposed to somehow prevent nuclear proliferation. But it turns out they are there just to cheer the work on.

Luckily the New York Times assures us we have nothing to worry about:

The material produced so far would have to undergo further enrichment before it could be transformed into bomb-grade material, and to accomplish that Iran would probably have to evict the I.A.E.A. inspectors…

Never mind this report from just last week from France’s AFP:

Iran blocked UN inspectors on test visit to nuclear site

by Michael Adler Fri May 11

VIENNA (AFP) – Iran has blocked UN atomic experts on a first unannounced test inspection of an underground nuclear site where it enriches uranium, despite a pledge to allow such visits, diplomats told AFP.

The watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency had in March told Iran to allow its inspectors to install surveillance cameras at the site in Natanz that is heavily bunkered against possible air strikes, but Tehran refused this and in return agreed to allow frequent, unannounced visits.

A first test on April 21 of the agreement “was a total failure,” a diplomat in Vienna, home to the IAEA, said Thursday, adding that a successful unannounced inspection has not yet taken place.

At stake is Iranian compliance with inspections by the IAEA, the verification arm of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the world’s basic agreement against the spread of atomic weapons.

Iran is defying UN demands for it to stop enriching uranium, which makes fuel for civilian nuclear power reactors but can also produce the explosive core of atom bombs…

There’s nothing to worry about at all.

The UN has everything under control.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, May 15th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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