Friday, February 19, 2010

IAEA: The last horse crosses the finish line

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced yesterday that it has information that Iran may be working on a nuclear warhead.  Wall Street Journal:
The International Atomic Energy Agency, a Vienna-based U.N. body, said in a confidential report Thursday that Iran has impeded agency efforts to establish the true purpose of Tehran's nuclear program.

The new director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, holds a meeting on his first day in office on Dec. 1, 2009 in Vienna.

"The information available to the agency...raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano wrote in the report.

The expression of concern over the "weaponization" of enriched uranium is a first for the agency.

The IAEA's first report under its new director general underscores what senior Obama administration officials see as a shift at the agency toward a tougher, factually based approach to Iran's nuclear program. One senior U.S. official said Mr. Amano is sticking strictly to the watchdog's responsibilities of ensuring that nuclear safeguards are obeyed.
J.E. Dyer from the Greenroom at Hot Air, makes the case that any information the IAEA has gleaned from its uranium tabulations in Iran are based on historical data about the uranium yellowcake it obtained from South Africa in the 1970's.  It does not take into account, nor does it have the capacity to take into account the indigenous uranium that Iran has mined within its own borders:
Most Americans are unaware of the arcane fact that Iran’s uranium enrichment operations were focused, until sometime in 2008, on a stash of yellowcake obtained from South Africa in the 1970s, when the Shah was still in power. Even fewer are aware that the UN’s accountability on the amount of low-enriched uranium (LEU) Iran has on-hand depends on knowing how much raw material there was to start with. When the IAEA certifies that it has detected no diversion of enriched uranium away from Iran’s supervised facilities, it can only do that in the context of what it knew about to begin with.

Still fewer Americans know that in 2008, Iran rapidly accelerated her use of indigenously mined uranium, to the point that by December of that year, everything being enriched in the centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant south of Tehran was reportedly mined in Iran. And equally few Americans know that IAEA doesn’t inspect Iran’s uranium mines or the refining and milling facilities. Due to a set of factors relating to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’s “Additional Protocol,” IAEA inspects only Iranian activities closer in the pipeline to actual weaponization.

There are probably rocket scientists among Hot Air’s distinguished readership, but it doesn’t take one to immediately recognize what’s wrong with this picture. If IAEA doesn’t know how much uranium Iran has mined and produced yellowcake from, its only reliable accountability is on whatever amounts it sees Iran process, at the production facilities at Esfahan (where uranium is converted to uranium hexafluoride, or UF6) and at Natanz, where it is enriched. If Iran can arrange to convert and enrich her own yellowcake elsewhere, IAEA will have no way to detect the “diversion” through tabular accounting alone. The diversion will start before the material even gets to its first stop at Esfahan.
Read the whole thing.

Here's my take.  If the hapless IAEA is finally concerned about Iran's nuclear intentions, the world should be gravely concerned.

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