Iran continues with enrichment program

19 November 2012

Iran has continued to develop its uranium enrichment capabilities, including the installation of more centrifuges at both the Fordow and Natanz sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported.

In a report to its board of governors, IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said that there has still not been an agreement on "a structured approach to resolving outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program and no agreement by Iran to the Agency's request for access to the Parchin site."

The report stated that contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities in the declared facilities. "It is conducting a number of activities at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), the Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) and Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) at Esfahan, which are in contravention of those obligations," it said.

Enrichment progress

According to the IAEA, since beginning enriching uranium, Iran has produced some 7611kg of UF6 enriched up to 5% U235, a increase of 735kg since Amano's previous report in August.

With regards to the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), Amano told the board that additional information from Iran is still needed, "particularly in light of the difference between the original stated purpose of the facility and the purpose for which it is now being used."

"Since the Director General's previous report, Iran has installed 644 centrifuges at FFEP, thereby completing the installation of centrifuges in all eight cascades in Unit 1, none of which it was feeding with UF6," his report said.

Iran has also fully installed 61 cascades in Production Hall A at the Natanz enrichment plant, 54 of which were declared by Iran as being fed with natural UF6. The country has also partially installed one other cascade at Natanz. Preparatory installation work has been completed for another 28 cascades, and is ongoing for 54 others.

Access to Parchin

An ongoing problem for the IAEA has been Iran's continued refusal to allow inspectors to visit a military site at Parchin. The IAEA is keen to verify suggestions that the site may have been used for development work related to nuclear weapons in the early 2000s. In his report, Amano said, "The Agency reiterates its request that Iran, without further delay, provide both access to that location and substantive answers to the Agency's detailed questions."

In addition to continuing its uranium enrichment work, Iran has also not suspended work on all heavy water related projects, including the ongoing construction of the heavy water moderated research reactor at Arak, the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40 Reactor). However, Iran has now told the IAEA that the IR-40 Reactor will not begin operation until the first quarter of 2014. It had previously been expected to start up in the third quarter of 2013.

The manufacture of fuel pellets for the IR-40 Reactor using natural UO2 is ongoing. Iran has completed the manufacture of dummy fuel assemblies for the IR-40 Reactor. However, Iran has not yet begun manufacturing fuel assemblies containing nuclear material, the IAEA said.

The IAEA is still awaiting a response from Iran to requests for further information in relation to announcements made by Iran concerning the construction of ten new uranium enrichment facilities, the sites for five of which, according to Iran, have been decided. Iran has also not provided information in connection with its February 2010 announcement that it possessed laser enrichment technology.

The IAEA said that it is still "unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

A meeting between the IAEA and Iranian officials is scheduled in Tehran on 13 December.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News