Monthly Archives: January 2006

Tunnels at Iran’s UCF

Just one addition to Jeffrey’s sweet “strike package post”:

He wrote:

Esfahan has another feature, however, that suggests a serious problem. North of the facility, there are a pair of roads that clearly reveal entrances to tunnels within the mountain. (Der Spiegel claimed the tunnels housed a secret Uranium Conversion Facility.)

Unlike the underground bunkers are Natanz, I am not sure the IC has any idea what is in those tunnels or their precise location beneath the mountain.

Actually, the IAEA has been able to visit the site. Last April, “I wrote”: that:

bq. [then-IAEA DDG Pierre] Goldschmidt also reported that Iran has begun constructing underground tunnels for storing nuclear materials near its uranium-conversion facility. Tehran notified the IAEA about the project, which Iran says began in September 2004, two days before agency inspectors visited the site Dec. 15. According to its safeguards agreement, Iran should have notified the IAEA earlier about the project, Goldschmidt said.

Furthermore, a State Department official said that

bq. Washington is not concerned about Iran conducting clandestine nuclear activities in the tunnels because the site is subject to IAEA monitoring.

“ISIS noted”: that the tunnel facility

bq. …appears too big to be only for storage. It might be intended to house production facilities for some uranium conversion processes. It does not appear large enough to be a complete duplicate of the UCF.

Now, over to TPM Cafe…

Cheney: No Close Relationship Between Iran and al-Qaeda


From a “radio interview”: today:

Do you believe there are ties between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda, Mr. Vice President?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. I think you’ve got to remember that the al Qaeda organization is primarily made up of radical Sunni Islamists, of course, and the Iranian regime is Shia-dominated — Shia. So there’s not a natural fit there. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been relationships over the years, but I don’t believe it’s close. I haven’t seen any evidence of that.

Note the contrast to Cheney’s “recent departure from reality RE: Iraq and al-Qaeda”:, which contained this bit of genius:

bq. …a lot of those documents that were captured over there that have not yet been evaluated offer additional evidence that, in fact, there was a relationship that stretched over many years between Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda organization.

No need to evaluate documents when you already have the answer…

Iran and UF6 – It’s Official

Iran seems to have pulled the rough diplomatic equivalent of downing eight pints and running around all over the place.

This just in:

*Iran Begins Removal of IAEA Seals at Enrichment-related Locations*

Vienna, 10 January 2006 – IAEA inspectors confirmed today that Iran started to remove IAEA seals on enrichment-related equipment and material at Natanz. Based on the information currently available, the removal of Agency seals at enrichment site of Natanz, and at two related storage and testing locations, Pars Trash and Farayand Technique, will be completed by 11 January 2006.

On 7 January 2006, Iran requested that the Agency remove, before 9 January 2006, specified seals at Natanz, Pars Trash and Farayand Technique. These seals covered P-1 centrifuge components, maraging steel, high strength aluminium and centrifuge quality control and manufacturing equipment, as well as two cylinders containing UF6 located at Natanz. The seals also covered some process equipment at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz.

According to Iran, the intended scale of the “R&D” is small and will be carried out at PFEP. Iran has also informed the Agency that it planned to install small-scale gas ultracentrifuge cascades at PFEP and that, during this “R&D”, UF6 gas would be fed into these cascades for research purposes. Iran also indicated that these activities may include the manufacturing of a limited number of new components, currently planned only for P-1 centrifuges.

The cascade hall and the UF6 feed and withdrawal stations at PFEP will continue to be covered by IAEA containment and surveillance measures….

I “noted last night”: that Iran had said it wouldn’t start producing nuclear fuel, but added that Tehran might engage in some linguistic hair-splitting.

“This is apparently the case.”: According to Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head for international affairs of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO):

bq. “We differentiate nuclear fuel production with research and access to technology. Suspension of nuclear fuel production will be continued in the country”…

Saeedi also revealed either serious ignorance or nuts of steel.

According to IRNA:

bq. Saeedi expressed hope Iran can reach a consensus with the European side on its nuclear activities within a logical framework so that all concerns can be removed.

Good luck with that. “CNN has a decent roundup”: of the international reaction. Short version: everyone’s pissed.

Strong work.

Iran to Resume Uranium Enrichment?

That’s what “Jacqueline Shire is reporting”: over at

Sources with knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program tell ABC News that a senior Iranian official notified the IAEA verbally over the weekend of its intention to introduce uranium hexafluoride gas, or UF6, into centrifuges at a facility in Natanz, 150 miles south of Tehran.

Introducing UF6 into centrifuges is the necessary step in producing enriched uranium. The centrifuges work by separating out uranium-235 atoms, which can be used to make nuclear weapons and also to fuel nuclear reactors, from heavier uranium-238 atoms.

This would suck.

I am, I admit, a bit surprised by this news. When I first heard about Iran’s intentions to conduct additional nuclear research, my thoughts were similar to Robert Einhorn’s:

bq. “When we learned last week that Iran was going to resume some ‘research and development’ work at Natanz, we assumed there would be some modest initial activity, such as the production of centrifuge components, but this is a much bigger step,” said Robert Einhorn a former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation”

I wasn’t sure they’d even go _that_ far. Presumably, the Iranians could conduct research that would technically fall within the scope of the November 2004 agreement suspending:

bq. … all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, and specifically: the manufacture and import of gas centrifuges and their components; the assembly, installation, testing or operation of gas centrifuges; work to undertake any plutonium separation, or to construct or operate any plutonium separation installation; and all tests or production at any uranium conversion installation.

It’ll be illuminating if/when documentation of Iran’s notification to the IAEA becomes available.

One possibility: this verbal notification may be Iran’s way of gauging the international community’s reaction.

I say that because several recent Iranian statements suggested that they wouldn’t start enriching uranium.

For instance, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamid-Reza Asefi “said 3 January”: that “nuclear research has nothing to do with enrichment and production of atomic fuel.”

According to the Mehr News Agency, Mohammad Saeedi, Deputy Director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization issued a similar statement the same day. He added that Tehran “had not yet made a final decision on producing nuclear fuel.”

Of course, they could just be torturing the definition of “producing nuclear fuel.”

Wrong week to quit sniffing glue…