Friday, February 24, 2012
'Iran set to expand nuclear activity in bunker', but 'US does not believe Iran trying to build nuclear bomb'.
'Iran set to expand nuclear activity in bunker', but 'US does not believe Iran trying to build nuclear bomb'.(JPost).VIENNA - Iran is believed to be carrying out preparations to expand nuclear activity deep inside a mountain, diplomats say, in a further sign of defiance in the face of intensifying Western pressure to curb its sensitive uranium enrichment drive.
Increased capacity at the Fordow underground site would probably heighten Western suspicion of Iran's intentions, after it last month started refining uranium there to a level that cuts the time it would need for any nuclear weapons bid.
A senior team of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed again this week to get the Islamic state to start addressing their mounting concerns about its nuclear work and returned empty handed to Vienna after two days of talks in Iran.The UN agency is now putting the finishing touches to its next report on Iran, expected to include information on the Tehran talks as well as more detail on the status of the Fordow plant near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom."I think we will see a jump in the potential state of readiness of the facility," one Vienna-based envoy said.
Fordow is of particular concern for the West and Israel as Iran is shifting the most controversial aspect of its nuclear work, refining uranium to a level that takes it significantly closer to potential bomb material, to the site."As Israel sees it, the nuclear program represents a serious threat; the time when Iran's putative efforts to build a bomb will become immune to a strike is fast approaching; and military action in the near future - perhaps as early as this year - therefore is a real possibility," it said.A Western official said Fordow was a very sensitive issue: "I'm not quite sure the Iranians understand they are playing with fire there."Iran last month said it had started to refine uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, compared with the 3.5 percent normally used for nuclear power plants, at Fordow.Soon afterward, it doubled production capacity to a total of more than 600 uranium enrichment centrifuges at Fordow, diplomats have told Reuters.Iran now appears to be making preparations for a further increase in the number of the cylindrical machines, (3.000) spinning at supersonic speeds to increase the concentration of the fissile U-235 isotope, at the facility."They are working towards full installation," said another diplomat in the Austrian capital. "But they are not installed and ready to operate yet."
Iran said last year that it would transfer its highest-grade uranium refinement work to Fordow from an above-ground research and development facility at its main enrichment plant at Natanz, and sharply boost capacity.It says it will use 20 percent-enriched uranium to convert into fuel for a research reactor making isotopes to treat cancer patients, but Western officials say they doubt Iran has the capability to do that on an industrial scale.
In addition, they say, Fordow's capacity - up to 3,000 centrifuges - is too small to produce the fuel needed for nuclear power plants, but ideal for yielding smaller amounts of high-enriched product typical of a nuclear weapons program.Iran disclosed the existence of Fordow to the IAEA only in September 2009, at least two years after construction began, after learning that Western spy services had detected it.
Meanwhile US intelligence agencies do not believe that Iran is actively trying to build a nuclear weapon, The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday, citing a highly classified intelligence assessment from early 2011.According to the report, the intelligence estimate holds that Tehran halted efforts to develop and build a nuclear warhead in 2003.The Los Angeles Times claims that the report, representing the input of 16 US intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is conducting research that could eventually enable it to develop a nuclear weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.Read the full story here and here.
Hmmmm........Iran’s declaratory policy today disavows any nuclear weapons intention, on spiritualas well as political grounds. The Islamic republic’s diplomats point to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s 2004 fatwa against the development, production, stockpiling, and use ofnuclear weapons. The inviolability and permanence of the fatwa is open to some interpretation, however, and in earlier days, Iranian leaders made little secret of their intentions. In 1991, Deputy President Ayatollah Mohajerani stated that Iran should workwith other Islamic states to create an ‘‘Islamic bomb.’’ Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani,characterized today as a pragmatist, in contrast to hardliner Ahmadinejad, in 1988 explicitly called on Iran to equip itself both in the offensive and defense use of chemical,bacteriological and radiological weapons.’’ By then, as then-Speaker of the Majlis and Commander in Chief, Rafsanjani had already won Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s approval to resume the Shah’s nuclear program and to begin secretly importing material and conducting experiments in violation of Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA.Source.