IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the Board of Governors

June 08, 2011

Iran Drives Nuclear Program Forward

Originally published in The Weekly Standard
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the Board of Governors. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA) www.iaea.org

Iran has long stonewalled the IAEA, the organization tasked with enforcing multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that demand a halt to Iran’s illicit nuclear activities. And this week the rogue regime continued its march: Iranian leaders announced steps to accelerate and harden their nuclear program, ignoring recent measures taken by the U.S. and UN that included multiple rounds of diplomacy and sanctions meant to change the regime’s behavior.

The IAEA’s latest report, issued last month, showed significant increases in the production rate of low enriched uranium (LEU). It is believed that Iran’s stockpile of LEU (as of April 2011) provides enough material, if further enriched to weapons-grade levels, to fuel four nuclear bombs. Additionally, the report detailed a list of seven nuclear activities exclusive to a nuclear weapons program that Iran has refused to explain. The level of specificity in the descriptions of the activities and the publicizing of such information suggests that the IAEA believes its evidence is credible.

During the release of the report earlier this week, IAEA head Yukiya Amano told the agency’s board that he wrote Iran’s top nuclear official to reiterate concerns about these activities and to request immediate access to certain nuclear sites, equipment, documentation, and personnel. Fereydoun Abbasi, an Iranian defense ministry scientist previously linked to the weapons program and now the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, responded on June 8. “Our answer is increased work in the sphere of nuclear technology and know-how,” Abbasi said in a statement. The day before, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that there was no incentive the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia, and Germany could provide to convince Iran to halt its enrichment program. “Iran’s nuclear train has no brake and no reverse gear,” Ahmadinejad said.

In a further provocation, the regime declared its intention to advance its program. Abbasi announced that Iran would increase its 20 percent enriched uranium production and relocate that production process from the underground Natanz facility to the Fordo facility, which is dug into a mountain within a Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) base near the city of Qom. Further enriching 20 percent enriched uranium to a level of 90 percent, or bomb-grade fuel, is relatively easy due to the non-linear nature of the enrichment process, as noted by the Institute for Science and International Security. The Fordo facility, where such enrichment will take place, had been a covert complex until the U.S. publicly identified its existence in 2009.

President Obama said on Tuesday that, if the IAEA determines that Iran is noncompliant, “we will have no choice but to consider additional steps, including potentially additional sanctions, to intensify the pressure on the Iranian regime.” Such steps would have to be drastic.