News / Middle East

Iran Encounters Nuclear Problems

Gary Thomas

New reports by Western experts say Iran’s nuclear program is faltering because of poorly functioning equipment.  But they say Iran has the capability to build at least one atomic weapon  in about six months’ time, if it chose to do so.  But, it is believed that Iran’s leadership has not yet decided to take that final step.

The new studies say the centrifuges Iran uses to produce enriched uranium are performing poorly.   The nongovernmental Institute for Science and International Security says many of the machines at the Natanz enrichment facility are old or are breaking down repeatedly.

ISIS President David Albright, the lead author of the reports, says the mechanical problems show that international sanctions have delayed Iran’s nuclear progress.

“It can’t stop them from building a bomb or making a decision [to do so]," said Albright. "But it can slow it down, it can create inhibitions against moving in that direction, and it can just generally make it difficult for Iran to get the raw materials it needs to build large numbers of centrifuges.”

But Albright adds that Iran has enough working centrifuges to turn out sufficiently pure uranium to build a nuclear bomb.

“Iran does have enough centrifuges if it wanted to go ahead and make weapon-grade uranium for a bomb," he said. "Any centrifuge can be used to make low-enriched uranium or high-enriched uranium.  So Iran has a capability to make nuclear weapons now.”

But has it decided to do so?

U.S. intelligence estimates say Iran might have technical capability to produce a nuclear bomb, although not a system to deliver one, and that Tehran has not decided to cross that line.

David Albright says the United States and its allies agree that is still the case, although there different assessments of the progress of Iran’s nuclear weapons research.

“But they all agree that no decision has been made by Iran to build weapons, that there is ambivalence about the situation because I think Iran, the Iranian regime, knows full well that if it can’t get the bomb quickly, and maybe have a plan to get more than one, that it could suffer horrible consequences that threaten the existence of the regime," said Albright.

Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the U.N. monitoring agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, says there is increased concern that Iran has been stockpiling low-grade enriched uranium with the intent of turning into weapons-grade uranium.  

“With time there will be enough material for nuclear bombs if Iran does that decision, and I would say that by the end of next year there starts to be a sizeable amount of low-enriched uranium, which I think is a matter of concern to quite a few parties," said Heinonen.

But Heinonen agrees there is no clear signal that Iran has decided to build atomic weapons.

"I don’t think anyone has seen real evidence that Iran has done a firm decision to build a nuclear weapon," he said. "On the other hand, when such a decision is done, it may not be a big group of people who decide on that, and it may be very difficult to find it out until it is perhaps too late."

The IAEA is scheduled to give its new quarterly inspection report on Iran next month.   

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More