Iran cooperates, but questions remain

25 February 2008

Iran has been cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but has continued its uranium enrichment work while important questions relating to weapons remain.


IAEA Seal 
An IAEA seal
(Image Dean Calma / IAEA)
The IAEA said that it is "not yet in a position to determine the full nature of Iran's nuclear program," largely as a result of unresolved matters relating to alleged missile technology and explosive test programs. The information came in a report to the IAEA board of governors from director general Mohamed ElBaradei.


Activities at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) and its Pilot sister facility (PFEP) have continued in defiance of requests from the UN Security Council. Iran has so far fed 1670 kg of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into the cascades of enrichment centrifuges, resulting in an output of 75 kg enriched to 3.8% uranium-235.


The plant's performance is "well below declared design capacity," said the IAEA, which has undertaken nine unnanounced inspections of FEP since March 2007 and continues to monitor the use of nuclear materials to its satisfaction.


Facilities at PFEP have been upgraded, with Iran recently removing three small test cascades of existing centrifuge technology and replacing them with prototypes of a more advanced design. All this took place under IAEA surveillance.

The IAEA also reported that construction of the IR-40 heavy-water 'research' reactor was progressing, despite having not been able to inspect it due to its status outside the scope of Iran's Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations. Using satellite imagery, the IAEA was also able to tell that heavy water for the unit was still being manufactured at a corresponding plant.


Remaining allegations


Iran has provided much information in the form of internal documents, shipping documents, instruction manuals, funding requests and invoices to solve some other issues, notably the contamination of some equipment with prohibited high-enriched uranium. The IAEA said Iran's explanation for the contamination was 'not inconsistent' with its own data. The agency now considers the matter "no longer outstanding" although it still seeks corroboration and verification.


The "one major remaining issue" IAEA is currently seeking to resolve lies outside the area of nuclear power. Another unnamed country provided IAEA with documents which appear to show plans for the production of uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) in connection with high explosives testing and a missile re-entry vehicle. Iran regards these documents as 'fabrications' while the accusations that they show an intent to make nuclear weapons are 'baseless'.


Iran also said accusations that it researched advanced explosive fuses and prepared a 400 metre deep explosives test shaft with a control facility some 10 km away were 'baseless' and documentation appearing to show the contrary was 'fabricated'.