TribLIVE

| USWorld

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Report: Iran poised to double output of uranium

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 9:44 p.m.
 

SALZBURG, Austria — Iran is poised to double its output of higher-enriched uranium at its fortified underground facility, the U.N. nuclear agency said on Friday — a development that puts Tehran within months of being able to make the core of a nuclear warhead.

The finding calls into question a tentative new U.S. plan meant to induce Tehran to compromise on its nuclear program by offering a rollback of crippling new anti-Iran sanctions if Tehran cuts back on enriching uranium to 20 percent.

In its report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was ready within days to ramp up its production of 20 percent enriched uranium at its plant at Fordo using 700 more centrifuges.

That would double Iran's output and cut in half the time it would take to acquire enough of the substance needed to make a nuclear weapon, reducing it to just over three months.

Iran says it has no interest in making nuclear arms, just nuclear power for its citizens, but the United States and other nations believe otherwise. Iran has refused to give up enrichment despite international sanctions and offers of reactor fuel from abroad and for years has stalemated an IAEA probe of suspicions that it worked secretly on developing such arms.

The report urged Iran to stop stalling the IAEA probe, declaring that unless it starts to cooperate the IAEA cannot “exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.”

The report clashed with comments by Israeli officials suggesting that Iran has slowed the timetable for reaching the ability to make nuclear weapons. The discrepancy is important because the earlier Israeli comments implied that Israel would have more time before deciding whether to hit Iranian facilities in an attempt to slow Tehran's perceived efforts to make nuclear weapons.

The IAEA report said that between the last IAEA board report in August and now, Iran had put nearly 700 centrifuges that were installed but not ready to operate at Fordo under a vacuum to make sure they are airtight.

That is the last step before uranium gas is fed into the centrifuges and the process or enrichment begins — an activity that can produce both reactor fuel or at high levels the fissile interior of a nuclear weapon. It takes only a few days to start enrichment with machines that are under vacuum.

The centrifuges, “having been subjected to vacuum testing, were ready for feeding” with uranium gas, the report said.

About 700 other centrifuges have been producing 20 percent uranium at Fordo since early this year. An additional 1,400 or so have been installed but are not yet believed operational — bringing the total to about 2,800.

While experts agree that the Islamic Republic could assemble enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear weapon relatively quickly, they point out that this is only one of a series of steps need to create a working weapon. They say that Tehran is believed to be years away from mastering the technology to manufacture a fully operational warhead.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read World

  1. Comets hold life building blocks
  2. Al-Qaida branch in Syria threatens U.S.-backed forces
  3. Al-Qaida group in Syria targeted by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes
  4. Bin Laden relatives among crash casualties
  5. Vibrantly colored mural spread across 200 homes in central Mexico city
  6. Gunbattle kills 21 at Afghan wedding party
  7. Experimental Ebola vaccine could stop virus in West Africa
  8. China returns passport to artist Ai Weiwei, who plans London trip
  9. U.S., Turkey plan for ‘safe zone’ free of ISIS in northern Syria
  10. 2013 death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar confirmed
  11. Zimbabwe suspends hunts amid outcry over lion’s death