News / Middle East

Iran's Nuclear Stockpile May Rise for Now Despite Deal With Powers

FILE - Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Reza Najafi attends a news conference at the headquarters of the IAEA in Vienna, Dec. 11, 2013.
FILE - Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Reza Najafi attends a news conference at the headquarters of the IAEA in Vienna, Dec. 11, 2013.
Reuters
An apparent delay in Iran's building of a nuclear conversion plant suggests its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) gas will grow for a while longer, despite Tehran's deal with world powers to curb its disputed atomic activity.

Among other steps, Iran agreed under the six-month accord - which took effect on Monday - to limit its LEU reserve. The new plant is meant to achieve that by turning the material into oxide powder that is not suited for further processing into high-enriched - or bomb-grade - uranium.

Diplomats and experts said the matter was of no immediate concern since Iran's commitment concerned the size of the stockpile towards the end of the deal, in late July, giving it time both to complete the facility and convert enough material.

But one Vienna-based envoy said Iran's progress in building the conversion line would be closely watched as part of the implementation of its obligations under the accord with the United States, France, Russia, Germany, Britain and China.

"It will be a problem if the facility is not completed in the next few months,'' Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank, said.

While Iran this week halted its most proliferation-sensitive work, enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, it is allowed under the interim agreement to continue producing uranium refined to up to 5 percent.

Iran says it is doing so to fuel a planned network of nuclear power plants, not to develop bombs as the West fears. Uranium must be enriched to a high degree - about 90 percent fissile purity - for a nuclear weapon.

The powers negotiated the ground-breaking deal with Iran to buy time for talks on a final settlement that would remove the risk of a new Middle East war over Iran's nuclear aspirations.

They focused initially on securing a halt to 20 percent enrichment as this represents a relatively short technical step from bomb-grade uranium. It would take much longer to reach that threshold from the 5 percent level.

"Although the immediate attention is focused on removing the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, it is important not to forget about the much larger stockpile of 3-5 percent enriched uranium,'' Fitzpatrick said.

Stockpile cap

Experts say Iran potentially has enough LEU for a few nuclear weapons if refined much further. Limiting its overall enrichment capacity is expected be one of the thorniest issues in future negotiations.

Reflecting Western concern also about the lower-grade stockpile, the United States says Iran has undertaken to not increase it so that it is not larger in half a year's time than it is now.

A senior U.S. administration official said Iran would "convert all of the newly enriched uranium'' into oxide and that the total remaining uranium gas would be less than 7,650 kg.
      
It had a stockpile of 7,154 kg in November - experts say this would be enough to yield four-five bombs - and is estimated to produce roughly 250 kg per month, meaning the stockpile will grow by that amount if there is no conversion to off-set it. The longer it takes to complete the plant, the more Iran will have to process to meet the target by the six-month deadline.
       
The U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed on Monday that Iran had started carrying out its part of the agreement, enabling the European Union and the United States to ease some sanctions.

But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said Iran was continuing to construct the plant for converting the LEU gas, the Enriched UO2 Powder Plant (EUPP).
       
That pointed to a delay from a timetable cited by the U.N. agency in a November report, which said Iran had indicated that tests of the EUPP would start in early December, "immediately after which the facility would commence operation''.

Herman Nackaerts, the head of the IAEA's non-proliferation inspectorate until mid 2013, said it appeared to be taking the Islamic Republic a  "bit longer'' than initially anticipated to complete the facility.

But he added that Iran had mastered the technology for converting uranium gas into oxide, suggesting it had the know-how for building such plants.

A diplomat familiar with the issue said he did not see the issue as posing any major risk and that ``with sufficient equipment it should be reasonably easy'' for Iran to complete the conversion process in time. Another diplomatic source suggested that the plant could be completed soon.
      
In the longer term, Western experts say, any final deal should scale back and set strict limits on Iran's enrichment programme to ensure that it would not be able to build a bomb without the outside world finding out in time.

However, it is no longer seen as realistic to expect that Iran halts all such activity, as demanded by a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions since 2006, they say.

"Obviously we would like, as an ideal arrangement, for Iran to have no enrichment capability and no stockpile,'' another U.S. official said.

The issue to be explored was whether there was some possible capability "that would be consistent with the assurances we need that Iran is not in a position to develop a nuclear weapon without the international community having a long lead time and notice in advance.''

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Change Iran Now from: USA
January 24, 2014 5:32 PM
The Mullahs’ regime is not a rational, pragmatic regime like any other in the world. The theocratic regime’s officials and decision makers have deeply rooted apocalyptic beliefs. Underestimating this radical ideology even as the Iranian regime is on its way to building a nuclear bomb can lead to dangerously wrong conclusions. The suggestion taking hold of late that a nuclear armed Iran is not the end of the world may unfortunately be dead wrong.

by: opl from: Iran
January 22, 2014 1:54 PM
hey VOA, Iranian Mullahs have been executing hundred of thousands of Sunni Muslims in Iran... Hundreds of Thousands!!!
you hypocrites!!!

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
January 22, 2014 1:09 PM
The UN, IAEA, P5+1 all amount to confusion when diplomacy of lives and security count. How Iran fags all of these is an enigma. Suppose it is blamable on Britain which is jump-starting diplomatic ties with Iran. Why the haste no one knows. The good thing about a nuclear bomb is that it is not going to agree to be encircled in one place once it's released from the canister. Experts have said a modern day nuclear bomb makes Hiroshima and Nagasaki a child's play. Surely it will not be like the Pukushima nuclear leak that was able to be contained within the limited environs of Japan. Trouble too is no one knows where Iran will target its nuclear warhead when achieved - if not already.

I do not understand why Tehran was given six months to put activities and facilities in place to achieve these curbs and we are still hearing that it will need more months for the growth of enriched stockpile to start reducing - in effect Iran is still producing 20% enriched uranium, and is yet to achieve a reconversion plant. Well everybody will have to live in fear while the madman still has the matchet in hand behind. But more to fear are those who have reason to have offended the madman previously. I heard Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refer to Iran's enemies with regard to the negotiations; who are those enemies? They should learn to sleep with one eye open until the UN, IAEA, and P5+1 find solution to this lingering problem of how to disarm the madman with a knife in hand.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs