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

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
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 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 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.

AppleAndroid