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News | IAEA Finds Evidence of Higher Enriched Uranium; Fiat Out of Iran

26 May 2012 02:30Comments

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AhmjadFuelRodPresentation.jpg2:30 a.m. IRDT, 6 Khordad/May 26 Analysis by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of environmental samples taken by agency inspectors at Iran's Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant on February 15 revealed particles with enrichment levels of up to 27 percent. That is higher than the 20 percent enrichment level that Iran officially informed the IAEA was the maximum for which the Fordow facility was designed; 20 percent is also the highest level of enrichment that Iran has publicly acknowledged conducting. In reply to the agency's request for an explanation of the presence of the 27 percent-enriched particles, Iran stated, according to an IAEA report issued Friday, "that the production of such particles 'above the target value' may happen for technical reasons beyond the operator's control."

For the New York Times, William J. Broad writes,

Bomb-grade fuel requires purity of 90 percent, which, in terms of production efforts, is a comparatively short leap from 20 percent enrichment.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington research group that tracks the Iranian nuclear program, said he believed the high enrichment reading cited by the I.A.E.A. had a benign explanation in Iran's continuing rearrangement of its centrifuges -- tall machines that spin fast to purify uranium.

"It's definitely embarrassing but not nefarious," Mr. Albright said in an interview.

Iran's rearrangements of its centrifuges, he added, are intended to increase the efficiency of its enrichment. The process involves thousands of centrifuges, interconnected by welters of pipes, that work in stages to heighten the uranium's purity one step at a time.

"There's a lot of art to this," he said of enriching uranium on an industrial scale, "and a lot of learning.

Earlier this week, columnist Muhammad Sahimi commented on the Institute for Science and International Security's published views concerning Iranian nuclear activities here. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, the IAEA's discovery at Fordow "'is not necessarily a sign that Iran is enriching to levels beyond what it has declared,' a diplomat in Vienna said, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue. Higher-than-expected enrichment has been found in the past at the Natanz facility in Iran, the diplomat said." Iran began enriching uranium to 20 (or, more precisely, 19.75) percent two years ago as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical radioisotopes, and for as many as five additional research reactors it has indicated that it plans to build.

***

Fiat, Italy's biggest carmaker, said it has suspended business activity with Iran. "Fiat supports the international efforts for a diplomatic solution of the issues relating to the relations with Iran," the Turin-based manufacturer said Friday in a statement.

"In this respect, Fiat announces that effective immediately its subsidiaries will no longer carry out business activity related to products or components where the ultimate destination of such products is known to be Iran, other than to the limited extent required to fulfill already existing binding obligations."

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi on Thursday boasted of Italy's leading role in getting tougher European Union sanctions approved against Iran. These include an oil embargo due to take effect on July 1.

Fiat didn't give a figure for the value of its business with Iran, saying only that it is "totally immaterial in a quantitative and qualitative sense."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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