Saturday, April 29, 2006

Report Sets Stage For Action on Iran

Report Sets Stage For Action on Iran:

"The agency's toughest complaint concerned Iran's failure to provide a credible explanation for where it obtained materials used for small-scale experiments with plutonium. Plutonium separation is a process that can be used in weapons development.

'The agency cannot exclude the possibility -- not withstanding the explanations provided by Iran -- that the plutonium analysed by the agency was derived from source(s) other than the ones declared by Iran,' the report says.

The report says that in addition to the 164 centrifuges Iran was previously reported to be using in uranium enrichment experiments, two additional 164-centrifuge systems known as cascades are under construction, an indication that Iran is trying to step up its experiments.

Officials with knowledge of the Iranian program, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that several centrifuges had crashed during the enrichment run last month and that the Iranians had cut many corners in a rush to demonstrate technical prowess.

The IAEA said Iran had refused to provide any explanation of public statements by Iranian officials concerning the testing of centrifuges known as P-2 models, which can enrich uranium more quickly and efficiently than the P-1 centrifuges currently in use can.

In addition, inspectors reported that since September, Iran has produced 110 tons of UF6, a key product used in the enrichment process. That is a higher amount than previously recorded.

Nuclear experts generally say Iran's program does not pose any immediate dangers to the outside world. 'If they don't have a plant that is able to operate for a significant time, then this doesn't pose a near- or mid-term threat,' said Michael Levi, a nuclear expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But many experts are concerned that the capabilities gained from experiments -- even those done under the monitoring of the IAEA -- could help Iran conceal the rate of progress in its program.

'Conducting open experiments with uranium enrichment teaches you how to more effectively hide that work, avoid accidents and control emissions that might give away the program,' Levi said. He called Iran's ability to enrich uranium to 3.6 percent purity, as outlined in the report, an achievement."

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