Jeffrey beat me to the punch with “this post”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1457/iran-enriching-on-industrial-scale about Iran’s announcement that it has begun industrial-scale enrichment.
I agree that there’s little new to this. I can add little value to what Jeffrey wrote, but I will try.
First, Iran almost certainly does not have 3,000 centrifuges installed. Some important facts:
* Iran missed its stated goal of installing 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007.
* Iran “told the IAEA”:http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2007/gov2007-08.pdf that it would “continue progressively with the installation of…18 cascades of [sic] the 3000-machine hall and to bring them gradually into operation by May 2007.”
* Press reports from late March indicate that Iran wasn’t even close to 3,000. For example, Michael Adler from AFP reported 29 March that a “diplomat said Iran had installed six cascades of 164 centrifuges each at Natanz and was test-running four of the cascades.”
Similarly, George Jahn from AP wrote 31 March that
bq. Two diplomats on Friday said that Iran had already linked up more than 900 of the devices and was ready to introduce uranium gas in them, starting the process of enrichment on a larger scale than previous attempts.”
FWIW, I have also heard from reliable source that Iran has a little under 1,000 centrifuges installed at the facility.
p=. *Iran Enriching Uranium?*
Is Iran enriching uranium in the larger Natanz facility? Well, Larijani “seemed to indicate”:http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSBLA82551420070409?src=040907_1302_TOPSTORY_nuclear_nation&pageNumber=1 that this is the case. And it’s certainly possible that Tehran’s claim to have begun fuel production means that Iran has now begun running the cascades with UF6.
But I remain curious. According to the IAEA,
bq. Iran informed the Agency of its plan to start feeding UF6 into the cascades installed at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) by the end of February 2007
I have seen no press reports since then saying that Iran has begun enriching uranium, though I certainly may have missed something. Adler reported that “Iran has not yet put in the uranium feedstock gas used to make enriched uranium.”
And I am still interested in this bit from “the IRNA story”:http://www2.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-22/0704093757194438.htm Jeffrey linked to that quoted the AEOI’s Mohammad Saiedi:
bq. He [Saiedi] declined to comment on whether Iran’s entry into the stage of fuel production on industrial scale meant injection of gas to 3,000 centrifuges.
p=. *Exaggerating Size*
Jeffrey listed several reasons for Iran to exaggerate its claims. I would add one more. As I “told Elaine Shannon,”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1608169,00.html
bq. Iran has been creating facts on the ground as part of its negotiating strategy…The further along the program, the more of it they will be able to keep in the future — so their thinking goes.
It’s also worth mentioning that, given the technical difficulties with Iran’s enrichment program, I think today’s industrial-scale enrichment claim is really one of the few benchmarks of progress that Iran can point to publicly, at least for now.
p=. *So What is Industrial-Scale Enrichment?*
Jeffrey addressed this issue already, but I thought I’d highlight what Saiedi himself said:
…asked how many centrifuges were needed for start fuel production at the industrial level, Saiedi said, “We enter the industrial stage after passing the pilot stage.”
When questioned about number of centrifuges Iran used in the pilot stage, Saiedi said, “Our pilot stage included two cascades of 164 centrifuges; we passed the stage and entered the industrial level.” In response to a reporter who said installation and operation of more than 3,000 centrifuges meant entry to the industrial level from the IAEA viewpoint, Saiedi said, “That’s the view of you reporters.”
Now to look for houses in Montana…