The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iran has increased production of 20% enriched uranium and has begun been feeding uranium hexafluoride into its Fordow enrichment plant, but says the country is still not cooperating in its quest to provide assurance on the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program.
The IAEA has released its latest report on Iran's implementation of safeguards under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and on provisions laid down in UN Security Council resolutions. While the agency says it has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of Iran's declared nuclear materials at nuclear facilities and hospitals, Iran's lack of cooperation means that it is unable to give any assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material. Furthermore, the IAEA said it "continues to have serous concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program". In particular, the report cites Iran's refusal to allow IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military site during a visit on 20-21 February.
|Bushehr commissioning underway
Iran has told the IAEA that commissioning activity for the Bushehr nuclear power plant began on 31 January 2012, although IAEA inspectors noted that the reactor was shut down when they carried out an inspection on 10 January. Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) head Fereydoun Abbasi, cited in the FARS news agency, has said the plant is already operating at 700 MWe and set to reach its full 1000 MWe capacity by the end of the current Iranian year on 19 March. The plant was connected to the Iranian grid in September 2011.
Iran has been under sanctions from the UN Security Council since 2006 for its refusal to give up its uranium enrichment activities. The IAEA's last report on Iranian safeguards, published in November 2011, led to the imposition of further sanctions by the USA and other countries.
Although Iran has not suspended enrichment activities as directed by the UN Security Council, its declared sites at Natanz and Fordow are under IAEA safeguards and the agency has reported on recent activity. The report notes that Iran estimates it produced 580 kg of 5%-enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) at its Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) between 17 October 2011 and 4 February 2012, bringing the cumulative total since low-enriched uranium production began in February 2007 to 5451 kg.
Between 14 September 2011 and 11 February 2012, the agency notes, a total of 164.9 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) was then fed into cascades at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP), also at Natanz, to produce approximately 21.7 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20%. This would mean that a total of 95.4 kg of 20%-enriched HEU has been produced since PFEP started up in February 2010.
Meanwhile, the IAEA has confirmed that Iran began feeding LEU enriched up to 5% from the FEP into one set of two interconnected centrifuge cascades in unit 2 at its Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) on 14 December 2011. Feeding of LEU began into a second cascade set at the unit on 25 January, the report notes, adding that Iran estimates that a total of 99.3 kg of 5%-enriched UF6 was fed into the two sets of interconnected cascades at Fordow between 14 December and 17 February, producing approximately 13.8 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20%.
Empty centrifuge casing have been placed in position and relevant piping installed in the remaining cascades in Fordow's two units, the agency notes. In total, 2088 empty IR-1 centrifuge casings have been installed. A total of 6177 empty casings have also been placed in position in the Natanz fuel enrichment plant.
In its own analysis of the IAEA report, US-based think-tank the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis) notes that it is unclear whether - or when - Iran may install the necessary rotor assemblies to create operational centrifuges. By installing casings, Iran is in effect "sending a warning to the the international community that it intends to fully outfit the Fordow site," according to Isis. "Only time will tell if Iran can actually install the critical centrifuge rotors and operate the machines," it adds. Isis also notes that Iran appears to be experiencing problems in its testing of production-scale cascades of advanced centrifuge at the Natanz PFEP. Moreover, it says, the output figures suggest that IR-1 centrifuge performance remains below par.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News