Skip to comments.Iran's nuclear plant progress 'eye-opening'
Posted on 03/10/2003 1:00:14 AM PST by sarcasm
WASHINGTON Near Natanz in central Iran, 160 newly minted centrifuges stand in neat rows inside a nuclear complex that the United States and other countries were surprised to learn about seven months ago. This year, they will begin spinning hot uranium gas into nuclear fuel.
In a nearby building, workers are assembling parts for 1,000 more centrifuges, part of 5,000 machines that will be linked in a vast uranium-enrichment plant under construction. When the project is completed in 2005, Iran will be capable of producing enough enriched uranium for several nuclear bombs each year.
Details about the Natanz complex are beginning to trickle out after the first visit by United Nations officials late last month.
U.S. officials described Iran's progress last week as "startling" and "eye-opening." Equally striking is the extent to which Iran's breakthrough caught the United States and others by surprise.
The Natanz plant poses a critical challenge to the Bush administration at a delicate time: as North Korea also appears to be intensifying efforts to build a nuclear weapon and on the eve of a possible war with Iraq. The disclosures will raise difficult questions about U.S. policy and the president's declared intention to pre-empt threats from those who seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
The Natanz plant came to light in August, when it was exposed by an opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
"Here we suddenly discover that Iran is much further along, with a far more robust nuclear-weapons development program than anyone said it had," Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition." "It shows you how a determined nation that has the intent to develop a nuclear weapon can keep that development process secret from inspectors and outsiders, if they really are determined to do it."
Iran denies having nuclear-weapons ambitions. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami last month said that Iran's only interest was diversifying its energy supply for a growing population of 65 million.
As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has a right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology, subject to the oversight of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. That right includes producing enriched uranium. Technically, Iran was not obligated to disclose its Natanz plant until it began processing uranium.
Iran's assurances about its intentions have drawn skepticism. Why, weapons experts ask, would a country that sits atop one of the world's largest reserves of oil and natural gas spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build nuclear-power plants?
"Whether there is an economic rationale doesn't matter: This still will bring Iran within weeks of getting a large arsenal of bombs," said Henry Sokolski, a Defense Department official during the first Bush administration who served as an adviser on nonproliferation policy. "And they can do it without breaking any rules."
This does not make sense. Why would they spend the money if they did not intend to make weapons?
Destroy it by bombing. Let them clean it up.
Iran Hides Two Big Nuclear Facilities Subcontracts for North Korea As first revealed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 85, Nov. 15, 2002
December 13, 2002, 8:18 AM (GMT+02:00)
Satellite photo of secret Iranian nuclear installation at Natanz
On October 25, 2002, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reported in its No. 82 issue the suspicion in Washington that one of the two bombs allegedly hidden in Kim Jong IIs war chest was not North Korean at all, but Iranian. Our sources revealed that the Iranian bomb was delivered to North Korea in the third week of September under a secret agreement Kim-Jung Nan, the North Korean presidents overseer of his countrys military and nuclear relations, concluded in Tehran on July 24. (To subcribe to DNW, click HERE ).
Last week, DEBKA-Net-Weekly received fresh and surprising information on how this deal is being implemented. The information came from intelligence sources who checked out a detailed report on Irans clandestine nuclear program brought to Washington in early August by an Iranian exile in flight from the hard-line regime. That report found no willing listeners in the US government, which was busy at the time with its bid to rope Iran into the war against Iraq.
On August 14, the exile called a select news conference and presented his report again. He still failed to attract serious official attention until the North Koreans admitted to a secret nuclear program. Then, the powers that be in Washington began connecting nuclear dots. Intelligence agencies went to work and established that the Iranian exiles report, gathering dust for three months, was spot on target, accurate in every detail.
That report reveals that the two bombs smuggled to North Korea from Iran last September were the property of North Korea. However, they were manufactured and assembled in Iran under the secret Tehran-Pyongyang contract of last July.
This means that North Korea secretly transferred its nuclear manufacturing facilities to the Islamic Republic. Specifically, North Korean plant for the production of all the essential components of the North Korean bombs, including equipment for uranium enrichment, was shifted lock, stock and barrel to Iran, where production has been taking place at two secret sites, both supervised by the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. This state body is controlled by the National Security Council that defers only to Irans radical spiritual leader Ali Khamenei.
The most important site, where nuclear fuel (enriched uranium) is produced, is located at Natanz, 100 miles north of Isfahan on the old Natanz-Kashan highway. A huge facility, big enough to employ hundreds of workers, it is buried many feet underground and set in layers of concrete. The director of this site is an IAEO official called Dawood Agha-Jani.
The second site, producing heavy water, is at Arak in a place called Qatran Workshop close to the Qara-Chai River, three miles from Khondab in northern Azerbaijan. A second IAEO official, Daryoush Sheibani, heads this project.
Unfinished structures were left at both locations to support official claims that building is uncompleted and the sites still inactive
The Iranian exiles report, as relayed to DEBKA-Net-Weekly , stressed that Iranian nuclear scientists and technicians were actively employed in every stage of production, their participation in the project in its entirety the essence of the secret Iranian-North Korean nuclear cooperation pact.
Intelligence experts are still pondering the following missing information:
--- After the two bombs were completed, did North Korea leave its nuclear equipment and manufacturing facilities behind in Iran?
Our sources suggest it did - which means Iran is now equipped to manufacture bombs unaided, whether by Russia or anyone else - depending, of course, on the Iranian scientists having acquired the necessary proficiency to work independently.
--- How much uranium was enriched? And what proportion, if any, stayed in Iran?
The presumption is that Iran was left with enough to make between 8-12 bombs.
DEBKA-Net-Weeklys Washington sources add that the Bush administration is considering placing this information before Russian president Vladimir Putin as leverage to persuade him to come aboard, should the US decide on military action against Iran, during or after the Iraq campaign.
After all, it would now appear that the Iranians used the Russian-assisted Bushehr project as a cover-up for their secret deal with North Korea, camouflage to obscure their progress towards a nuke of their own.
Bah. I'm not in the least surprised. And neither should you be. After Iraq, it's Iran.
The Islamos finally grew a few brain cells and read "Sum of all Fears". Hey Abdul, this book is a how to manual!
***A number of other very interesting articles, some in PDF format are to be found on google here :HERE ***
U.S., Russia At Odds on Iranian Deal
Bush to Raise Atomic Issues at Summit
By Michael Dobbs
Washington Post Staff Writer
The officials said the two countries exchanged a series of diplomatic messages after the United States and Israel alerted Russia to a suspicious aluminum shipment on a Russian boat that was headed for Iran via the Black Sea soon after President Bush took office Jan. 21.
According to the American version, Russian inspectors boarded the vessel and reported that the aluminum was intended for aircraft manufacture, an explanation not accepted by the United States. The shipment was allowed to proceed to Iran.
The precise origin of the aluminum is not known, but U.S. officials said the deal was arranged by a Russian metals trader. The officials said that the United States and Israel have evidence that the aluminum was delivered to Iranian institutions connected with what they suspect is Iran's nuclear weapons project.
The aluminum shipment is the latest in a series of nuclear proliferation disputes that have clouded U.S.-Russian relations in recent years. U.S. officials said Bush is expected to raise proliferation concerns with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their first face-to-face meeting Saturday in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana without going into detail about specific cases.
"It's a big deal," said one well-placed administration official, referring to fears that Iran is experimenting with different ways of enriching uranium to produce bomb-grade material that would serve as the basis for a crude nuclear weapon.
U.S. officials said they suspected that the aluminum alloy delivered to Iran was intended for the manufacture of rotor blades used in gas centrifuges that separate out the enriched uranium that can produce a chain reaction for a nuclear explosion. U.S. experts say that Iran has been attempting to acquire centrifuge technology, as well as other technology for enriching uranium, for much of the last decade as part of a larger effort to build an atomic bomb. (/snip)
It is not known precisely where Iran obtained the blueprints and the many specialized materials used to make centrifuges. Although some U.S. officials suspect Pakistan provided designs for the centrifuges in the early 1990s, the machines on display at Natanz had been significantly modified by Iranian engineers and could not be easily traced to a single country or supplier, according to U.S. and independent nuclear experts. Iran apparently acquired centrifuge motors and other parts from abroad, and it recruited foreign scientists to help master complex engineering feats, the experts said.