Monthly Archives: May 2007

Iran and UF6 – A Bit More

For those who need more…

In “this post,”: I talked about the quality of Iran’s UF6 and excerpted an item from “this”: _ACT_ article:

Iran has had difficulty producing uranium hexafluoride of sufficient purity, but its conversion capabilities appear to be improving, said both the Vienna diplomat and the State Department official. Uranium hexafluoride with high levels of contaminants can corrode centrifuges when used as feedstock.

The United States assesses that Iran’s uranium hexafluoride is now of high enough quality that it will not damage the centrifuge, the State Department source said

Anyway, while doing research for my forthcoming _ACT_ masterpiece, I found something “more recent”: that I wrote about the subject:

bq. Asked about the purity of Iran’s uranium hexafluoride, sources close to the IAEA told _Arms Control Today_ June 7 [2006] that, *based on the large amount of feedstock Iran has produced, the agency assumes that the material is “of reasonable quality.”*

As I “said”:, “There are legitimate questions about the quality of Iran’s UF6, but I wouldn’t be too sanguine that all of it sucks.”

Myanmar’s Nuclear Deal

Not long ago, Andreas Persbo “blogged about”: the recent “nuclear deal”:;_ylt=AlyWkcyvokLr4jm5Sze5P4atubgA concluded between Russia and Myanmar.

Rosatom “supplied details:”:

The sides have agreed to cooperate on the establishment of a center for nuclear studies in the territory of Myanmar (the general contractor will be Atomstroyexport). *The center will comprise a 10MW light water reactor working on 20%-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment and burial facilities.*


Russian universities are supposed to train 300–350 specialists for the center.

Andreas took issue with the “State Department’s claim”: that Myanmar lacks the necessary regulatory apparatus for the project. But what I found interesting about the DOS argument is that it seemed to express concern about Myanmar pursuing a nuclear power program – something that’s not involved in the deal with Russia.

Here’s what DOS spokesperson Tom Casey “said”:

QUESTION: And you — you said that Myanmar, or rather, Burma has neither the regulatory framework nor the legal framework of the kind that you would like to see in such cases.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Could you put that in laymen’s terms?

MR. CASEY: Could I put it in laymen’s terms? Well, *they don’t have anything like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They don’t have any standards for safety. They don’t have any oversight or management system for nuclear power. In short, we would be concerned about the possibility for accidents, for environmental damage or for proliferation simply by the possibility of fuel being diverted, stolen or otherwise removed simply because there are no accounting mechanisms or other kinds of security procedures. So this is something that Burma does not have any systems in place to be able to handle, and that certainly is cause for concern.*

QUESTION: So it’s not a good idea for the —

MR. CASEY: That would be the short answer, Sylvie. Yeah, it’s not a good idea.

QUESTION: So the Russians didn’t have a good idea by putting this agreement —

MR. CASEY: Again, I’m not familiar. I know they signed a memorandum of understanding. I’m not sure what the contents are of that or whether — how preliminary this is, but again, we have concerns about this. We wouldn’t want to see a project like this move forward until some of those concerns are addressed.

Presumably, these concerns would all apply to a research reactor, but I wonder if some talking points need updating.

Incidentally, Burma _has_ looked into nuclear power in the recent past. For example, I “wrote a few years ago”: that

bq. a Burmese Atomic Energy Department employee’s presentation to a 2003 conference in Japan states that *“nuclear power introduction [is] desirable for [the] long term” and Rangoon [Yangon] “should consider small” 100-400 megawatt reactors, perhaps to be introduced around 2025.*

Go outside and play now.

Iran Summaries

Jeffrey has a great “post up”: about the rate at which Iran’s centrifuges are operating.

Among the most interesting items is this bit o’ math:

Between April 15-May 22 (37 days, not counting the 22nd, or 888 hours), Iran fed approximately 260 kg of UF6 into the eight cascades. *Assuming a feed rate of 70 grams an hour, eight cascades should consume approximately 500 kilograms of UF6. If Iran consumes just 260 kilograms, than the centrifuges are operating a little above 50 percent of what one would expect.*

Read the whole thing, though.

In a somewhat different vein, I give you a visual representation of Iran’s response to the UNSC demands. Happy Friday.

More Thoughts on IAEA Iran Report

A few more things about that report. Previous deep thoughts “here.”:

p=. *More on Centrifuges*

First, CFR’s Gary Samore allowed me to use some information (which originated from an email exchange with some other folks) that might shed more light on an issue I mentioned “before.”:

I wrote:

bq. The fact that Iran is feeding this much UF6 into the centrifuges seems to suggest that it has overcome other past technical difficulties. A source told me in April that, at the time, Iran was
“being ‘cautious’ by introducing small amounts” of UF6 into the centrifuges so they wouldn’t crash. [Last sentence paraphrased.]

Maybe not so much. According to Gary,

bq. My sources tell me that the machines are *NOT* operating at full capacity (i.e. they are spinning at lower than optimal speeds to avoid crashing). [ _Emphasis his._ ]

p=. *Iranian UF6*

According to the report, “Iran presented 269 tonnes of UF6 for
Agency verification” when IAEA inspectors conducted the annual PIV at Iran’s conversion facility.

That number is consistent with past Iranian statements. For example, AEOI head Gholamreza Aghazadeh “said”: early last month that Iran has produced 270 tonnes of UF6 “over the past one year.” More recently, his deputy, Mohammad Saeedi, claimed that Iran has 280 tonnes of UF6.

There are legitimate questions about the quality of Iran’s UF6, but I wouldn’t be too sanguine that all of it sucks. For example, “I wrote more than a year ago”: that Iran’s ability to produce UF6 “appear[s] to be improving,” according to a “Vienna diplomat” and a “State Department official.”


The United States assesses that Iran’s uranium hexafluoride is now of high enough quality that it will not damage the centrifuge[s], the State Department source said.

Anyone who knows anything else is free to tell me.

p=. *Wanted: Transparency*

One of the most striking things about the report is its emphasis on what the IAEA _doesn’t_ know about Iran’s program because of Tehran’s lack of transparency. Not only has Iran refused to cooperate (for the most part) with the IAEA’s requests for information about Iran’s nuclear program(s), but Iran still won’t implement the additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement.

The UN Security Council, BTW, has required Tehran to cooperate with the investigation and ratify its additional protocol.

Anyway, this lack of cooperation is clearly impairing the IAEA’s investigation. According to the report:

bq. because the Agency has not been receiving for over a year information that Iran used to provide, including under the Additional Protocol, *the Agency’s level of knowledge of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear related activities has deteriorated.*

That information includes

bq. information relevant to the assembly of centrifuges, the manufacture of centrifuge components or associated equipment and research and development of centrifuges or enrichment techniques.

Personally, I have thought for a while that getting Iran to suspend its program is increasingly less important than getting it to ratify the additional protocol. Obviously, Iran should do both.

First Thoughts on IAEA Iran Report

There are a few new things. But if you wish to read no further, read this summary paragraph:

bq. Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities. Iran has continued with the operation of PFEP [Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant]. It has also continued with the construction of FEP [Fuel Enrichment Plant] and has started feeding cascades with UF6. Iran has also continued with its heavy water related projects. Construction of the IR-40 reactor and the operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant are continuing.

Here are some preliminary thoughts. I may change some of them.

p=. *Enrichment Progress*

According to the report, Iran has been operating 8 164-Centrifuge cascades (1,312 centrifuges, by my math.) That’s “the same number”: that the Iranians reported to the IAEA, according to an 18 April letter from IAEA Deputy Director-General Olli Heinonen. The report also says that Iran has “two other similar cascades” that have been vacuum tested. Three more are “under construction.”

Incidentally, I wonder if Iran’s AEOI Deputy Secretary Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli was referring to the 2 vacuum-tested cascades “when he recently said”: that Iran “currently has 1,600 active centrifuges.” The inclusion of those cascades would give Iran a total of 1,640 centrifuges.

Bottom line: the number installed hasn’t changed in the last few weeks.

Where Iran seems to have made the most progress is in actually enriching uranium in its cascades. The report says that Iran

bq. has fed approximately *260 kg of UF6* into the cascades at FEP. Iran has declared that it has reached enrichment levels up to *4.8% U-235* at FEP, which the Agency is in the process of verifying.

That enrichment level isn’t new – the IAEA has reported that before. And note that the report doesn’t say how much enriched uranium Iran has produced.

However, the feeding of that much UF6 does appear to represent some progress. In the “last issue of ACT,”: I reported that

bq. Iran is feeding an unspecified amount of uranium hexafluoride into the cascades… [But] Tehran is not actually enriching uranium, a knowledgeable source told _Arms Control Today_ April 18. Instead, Iran is injecting small amounts of feedstock into the centrifuges to ready them for operation. This process produces trace amount of uranium enriched to very low levels.

So it seems that Iran fed 260 kg of UF6 into the centrifuges between April 18 and around now (inspectors visited the FEP on 13 May.) By contrast, Iran fed a total of 106 kg into the PFEP between Jun 2006 and this past February. (Yes, I know it’s not quite apples-apples, but still…)

[ *Update:* To give some context, it takes “roughly 5 tonnes of uranium hexafluoride… to make enough HEU for a nuclear weapon,” “according to ISIS.”: ]

The fact that Iran is feeding this much UF6 into the centrifuges seems to suggest that it has overcome other past technical difficulties. A source “told me”: in April that, at the time, Iran was

bq. being “cautious” by introducing small amounts of feedstock. Previously, the centrifuges would spin properly but would break when uranium hexafluoride was introduced into them, the diplomat explained.

If Iran has linked all of the cascades together, that would represent even more progress. The report says that the cascades are “operating simultaneously.” I don’t _think_ that means that they’re linked together, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

More later…


Sean-Paul Kelley was nice enough to quote me “here.”: When I talked to him, I hadn’t thought as much about the amount of UF6 that Iran was feeding into its centrifuges. But I think he captured my thoughts pretty well.

Your Mousavian Fix

“According to FNA,”: the Mousavian investigation is still “open” and centers around his ill-advised dealings with a foreign embassy.

Mohseni Ezhehyee, Iran’s Intelligence Minister, said in a briefing session at the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission that the case is

bq. security oriented and pertains to the leakage of information to foreign countries, specially to the embassy of a foreign country in Tehran…

According to an unnamed “source,” the accusations against Mousavian

bq. “are not related to today or yesterday but have to do with (actions) many years ago” adding that the investigation had so far only focused on security issues.

Previous Mousavian posts “here”: and “here.”:

In other news, the IAEA report has already “leaked.”:

Awaiting the full text…


“Here it is.”:

Best. Music. Review. Ever.

I’m not in much of a blogging mood, so check out my “favorite music review”: of all time.

I can’t speak to its accuracy, but this is hilarious:

bq. …the hobnobbing and scenester privilege could be forgiven if A.R.E. Weapons had a shred of talent or originality, but at best, this record is Suicide resurrected as a novelty act; at worst it could pass for an extreme deodorant commercial with swearing.

C Powell on Iraq – Just Saying

I can’t blog as much as I would like to right now because I’m trying to keep my editor from hiring a hit man. So I’ll write about something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

If the SSCI ever gets to it, there’s something more I would like to know about the whole Iraq intel fiasco.

Shortly before the 2003 US-led invasion, I saw Colin Powell give “a speech”: at CSIS where he said that the UNMOVIC inspections weren’t working. For example, he dismissed Iraq’s destruction of its al-Samoud II missiles and argued that Iraq was planning to build more:

… from recent intelligence, we know that the
Iraqi regime intends to declare and destroy only a portion of its
banned al-Samoud inventory and that it has, in fact, ordered the
continued production of the missiles that you see being destroyed. Iraq has brought its machinery that produces such missiles out into the daylight for all to see. But *we have intelligence that says, at the very same time, it has also begun to hide machinery it can use to convert other kinds of engines to power al-Samouds II.*

… Even as he [Saddam Hussein] orders some to be destroyed, he is continuing with activities that will allow more to be produced.

Powell also claimed that Iraq was otherwise deceiving the inspectors by “moving weapons of mass destruction materials around the country to avoid detection.”

Specifically, he charged that

in late January, *the Iraqi Intelligence Service transported chemical and biological agents to areas far away from Baghdad, near the Syrian and Turkish borders, in order to conceal them, and they have concealed them from the prying eyes of inspectors.*

In early February, fearing that UNMOVIC had precise intelligence about storage locations, the *Iraqis were moving prohibited materials every 12 to 24 hours.* And in mid-February, concerned about the surveillance capabilities of the U-2 overflights that they finally were going to permit, *Iraq was transferring banned materials in old vehicles and placing them in poor, working class neighborhoods outside the capital.*

Given that the various investigations so far have not, as far as I know, addressed this speech, I would be very interested to know where this “intelligence” came from. Especially because it was crap.

Happy rest-of-weekend.

Zarif Blog

OK, not quite a blog. But he does have his own “web site.”:

I just now found this out from “this IHT”: story about Zarif. It’s quite good – take a look. It’s sad that he’s leaving.

Have a good weekend. Watch some Fugazi.