News / Middle East

Diplomats: Iran Acts to Expand Sensitive Nuclear Capacity

 Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, attends a news conference at the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, May 16, 2013. Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, attends a news conference at the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, May 16, 2013.
x
 Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, attends a news conference at the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, May 16, 2013.
Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, attends a news conference at the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, May 16, 2013.
Reuters
— A U.N. nuclear agency report due this week is expected to show Iran further increasing its capacity to produce material that its adversaries fear could eventually be used to develop atomic bombs, Western diplomats said on Tuesday.

But they said it also is likely to indicate that growth in Iran's most sensitive nuclear stockpile has been held back because some of it has been used for reactor fuel, potentially providing more time for diplomacy between Iran and major powers.

Tehran's holding of medium-enriched uranium gas is closely watched in the West as Israel, which has threatened air strikes if diplomacy and sanctions do not stop Iran's atomic drive, says Iran must not amass enough for one bomb if further processed.

Critics say Iran is trying to achieve the capability to make atomic arms. Iran denies this, saying it needs nuclear power for energy generation and medical purposes and that it is Israel's reputed nuclear arsenal that threatens regional peace.

The next quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], expected on Wednesday, is likely to show continued installation of the centrifuges used for enriching uranium, diplomats said.

That would include an advanced model known as IR-2m, which once operational, would enable Iran to sharply speed up its accumulation of refined uranium that can have both civilian and military purposes.

The number of IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings that have been put in place at Iran's main enrichment site near the town of Natanz is expected to have risen significantly since February, when it stood at 180, they said.

Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s-vintage IR-1 machines it now uses, but introducing new models has been dogged by technical hurdles and difficulty in obtaining key parts abroad.

“We expect that they've continued to install more advanced centrifuges at Natanz,” said one diplomat.

Another Western envoy said Iran also was believed to be pressing ahead in the construction of a research reactor, which  experts say could offer it a second way of producing material for a nuclear bomb, if it decided to embark on such a course.

Nuclear analysts say the type of reactor that Iran is building near the town of Arak could yield plutonium for nuclear arms if the spent fuel is reprocessed, something Iran has said it has no intention of doing.

Nuclear stockpile

Diplomats also will scrutinize the IAEA report for what it has to say about Iran's possession of medium-enriched uranium as this represents a technical threshold relatively close to the level required for nuclear bombs.

Since Iran in 2010 began processing uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, it has produced more than the 240-250 kg that would be needed for one bomb, if refined more.

But while the stockpile has expanded, Iran still has kept it below Israel's stated “red line” by converting a large part of the uranium gas into oxide powder in order, Tehran says, to yield fuel for a medical research reactor in the capital.

As a result, the increase in the holding of 20 percent gas has been less than the production. In February, the stockpile was 167 kg, a rise of roughly 18-19 kg since the previous report in December, but a significant slowdown from a 50-percent jump in the previous three-month period.

“It seems that they are converting nearly all the material that they are producing,” said a Western official.

But while the uranium conversion activity may postpone any decision by Israel on whether to strike Iranian nuclear sites, Western diplomats made clear Tehran must do much more in order to allay suspicions about its atomic program.

Turning uranium gas into oxide powder in order to make fuel plates also may be just a temporary positive development because the process is possible to reverse, Western experts say.

The six world powers involved in diplomacy with Iran - the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and China - want it to stop refining uranium to 20 percent and suspend work at the underground Fordow site where most of this work is pursued.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid