News / Middle East

Analysts Dispute Iran's Uranium-Enrichment Claims


The international community has demanded that Iran fully acknowledge all of its nuclear related activities, and halt any work toward acquiring nuclear weapons. But Tehran has responded by announcing that it will not only continue to enrich uranium, but also, expand production.

Despite condemnation from around the globe, Iran says it will continue to enrich uranium. And, in the eyes of many, the Islamic Republic is also working to make these enrichment activities even less visible.

On June 8, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Fereidoun Abbasi, said uranium enrichment would be done at two facilities - though apparently for different uses.

One facility, at Natanz, will continue to enrich uranium for electrical generation. But another facility, called Fordo, will have a much more controversial purpose. Analyst Corey Hinderstein, with the anti-proliferation group Nuclear Threat Initiative, says the Fordo enrichment will be to a much higher level.

"This is the kind of enrichment that is still not usable in a nuclear weapon, but it gives them a platform from which, if they made a decision to make a nuclear weapon, they could do so in a much shorter amount of time," Hingerstein noted.

The Fardo enrichment facility is within an apparently heavily-fortified, hollowed-out mountain near the city of Qom.  And that, according to former weapons inspector and nuclear analyst David Albright, at the Institute for Science and International Security, does the opposite of assuring the world that Iran's nuclear intentions are peaceful.

"What Iran has done is send a very provocative signal that it is taking centrifuges - advanced centrifuges - and putting them underground in a site that cannot be bombed," noted Albright.  "And then, making materials. They could be, in the end, just that much closer to material that would be used in a nuclear weapon."

Iran nuclear chief Abbasi says the Fardo enrichment site will produce uranium enriched to about 20 percent, to be used in creating medical isotopes.  And he says the facility will do this enrichment at three times the previous rate.  Corey Hinderstein says she flatly rejects this justification.

"They already have about 50 kilograms of this higher enriched - 20 percent – uranium," Hinderstein said.  "That is, already, about five years' worth of material for the [Tehran Research medical] reactor.  And, they have no other reactors to use [for creating medical isotopes].  So, the idea that they would need triple this amount on an annual basis just doesn't jibe with their civilian activities."

Iran's continued work on its nuclear program has caused some to call for military action.  But that threat, according to some analysts, only causes Tehran to be even more determined to proceed.  And, they say, it's why nothing substantive seems to have come from repeated talks with Iranian officials.

The RAND Corporation recently issued a report on Iran's nuclear program which contained several proposals for the United States and other nations.

One course of action would be to make current sanctions against Iran even tougher, and back that up with a more robust U.S. military presence in the Gulf.

Another option would be to combine tougher sanctions with the building of missile defenses by other Persian Gulf countries to neutralize possible Iranian threats.

Yet a third idea set forth in the RAND report would go the other direction - relaxing sanctions and perceived military threats in hopes of pulling Iran out of its "bunker" mentality.

One of the RAND study's authors, Ali Reza Nader, says this third approach would have to overcome decades of hostilities between Iran and the West.

"One of the options we discussed in the report is diplomacy, or engagement - lessening Iran's sense of threat from the United States," noted Ali Reza Nader.  "Of course, there are various impediments to achieving this from both sides.  Building the domestic support for some sort of relationship with Iran and the United States."

Analyst Nader says Tehran's first and foremost imperative is to ensure the survival of its regime.  He, and the RAND study, say that addressing this primary concern may be the key to finally getting Iran to ease its nuclear ambitions.

Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs