Azerbaijan, Baku, March 11 / Trend , E.Ostapenko/
Trend Persian Desk spoke in an interview with US envoy to IAEA,
Glyn Davies .
Trend : Iran claims that having enriched its uranium to 20%, it will be able to produce nuclear fuel for its Tehran reactor. So far such technology existed only in France and Argentina. Taking that into account, how would you estimate Iran's ability to enrich its uranium to 20%?
Glyn Davies: The question is not so much the ability to enrich to 20%, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported that Iran has apparently already done so. The issue instead is a question about the subsequent technical step of using the 20% enriched uranium to actually manufacture fuel assemblies that would go into the reactor.
According to the IAEA, Iran does not currently have the technical capacity to manufacture the fuel elements, and it is not plausible that Iran could put in place that capability in a safe manner before the end of this year, which is when Iran has said it needs new fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) in order to continue to provide radioisotopes to cancer patients in Iran. Even the U.S. does not have an existing assembly line for the manufacture of this specific kind of fuel. If Iran were to cut corners to manufacture this fuel more quickly, this would raise significant safety concerns.
Fortunately, the isotopes Iran needs for its hospitals and cancer patients can be bought on the international market so there should be no need for the Iranian people to suffer.
Iran's inability to make the fuel for the TRR calls into question the real purpose of enriching to 20 percent - it cannot be used for TRR fuel in the timeframe Iran says it needs such fuel, but it does bring Iran much closer to the production of weapons grade fissile material. Approximately 85% of the enrichment work necessary to make weapons-grade uranium is already done if you have produced 20% enriched uranium.
Q.: Several years ago US intelligence services were handed over the portable computer of Iranian diplomat (so-called American laptop). However Iran disproved all the information in it. Has the US provided the IAEA any evidence concerning this Iranian diplomat's computer? Are there any forcible arguments about the nuclear weapons production in Iran?
A.: As the IAEA Director General's reports over the years have attested, the IAEA is in possession of information from multiple sources that is internally consistent and corroborated and points to military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program. The latest report raises the concern that these weaponization activities continued beyond 2004 and may be ongoing.
The IAEA reports that it has made relevant information available for Iran and has asked Iran to discuss it in substance. However, Iran has failed to discuss this material in any substantive manner and has not provided any evidence to substantiate its claims that this material is "fabricated." Iran has refused to even talk to the inspectors about this issue since August 2008. Instead, Iran has offered quibbles on the format or markings on the documents to create a smoke screen, and won't allow the conversation to go further.
This issue goes to the core of the international community's lack of confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program and should be of particular concern to Iran's neighbors.
Q.: Is the US ready to hand over 20% enriched uranium to Iran? What are the reasons for the IAEA to deny uranium exchange on Iranian territory which was proposed by Iran. Don't you suppose that this option will ease the problem?
A.: The US, Russia and France continue to support the IAEA proposal to remove the necessary amount of low enriched uranium from Iran for further enrichment and manufacture of fuel assemblies. We and the IAEA have offered multiple guarantees including the prospect of holding Iran's Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) in "escrow" in a friendly third country. Despite Iran's ongoing noncompliance with IAEA safeguards and with United Nations Security Council requirements, we supported the IAEA's proposal as both a humanitarian and confidence-building measure. The humanitarian imperative arises out of the need to provide care to Iranian cancer patients.
What was asked of Iran as a confidence building measure was to take the relevant portion of LEU it had produced out of Iran or put the LEU in a third country, while Russia and France undertake the steps, respectively to provide the 20 percent enriched uranium and manufactures the fuel assemblies. Despite having agreed to such a confidence building measure initially in October, Iran subsequently reneged and demanded a simultaneous swap that would provide no new confidence because it would allow Iran to continue to preserve a larger stockpile of LEU that it could at any time choose to divert to weapons production. Instead, Iran wants the international community use some other country's uranium for TRR fuel while Iran keeps its own uranium for a possible weapons option. How does that increase confidence?
Q.: Iran claims that there was a decree to build more than 10 new secret objects in addition to Fordo site. Do you believe that Iran has the potential to ensure the work of a 1000 megawatt nuclear station with 3000 centrifuges?
A.: Iran has no reactors to justify indigenous enrichment. The only reactor nearing completion is Bushehr, for which Russia is providing the fuel. It makes no commercial sense to undertake commercial enrichment unless you have a large scale nuclear power sector (i.e., dozens of reactors to fuel). To provide fuel for the reactors Iran claims it will build would take tens of thousands of centrifuges and a facility far larger than even the design of the Natanz site; a site like Fordow with only 3000 centrifuges is irrelevant to supply fuel for power reactors, but is well-scaled for a nascent nuclear weapons program.
Beginning construction on new reactors and/or enrichment plants in secret would be in further direct contravention of Iran's UN and IAEA obligations. This would not be the first time Iran has built an enrichment facility in secret - both Natanz and Fordow were built in secret. Building another 10 new secret plants would further undermine the confidence of the international community with good reason.
Q.: Iran claims that it is planning the production of 20 000 megawatt of nuclear energy. Do you think that Iran really possesses the thousands of tons of uranium needed? Is there the possibility that Iran will import uranium from Venezuela, Kazakhstan and South Africa?
A.: According to its own data, Iran does not possess the indigenous uranium resources to produce the fuel necessary to support the nuclear power plants it says it will build. Thus, Iran's claim that it is pursuing enrichment only to establish self-sufficiency for peaceful nuclear reactor fuel is built on a mirage-Iran cannot be self sufficient if it still has to import the natural uranium to feed its enrichment plants.
Import of such natural uranium to Iran is prohibited by legally binding UN Security Council resolutions - it is unlikely that responsible members of the international community would violate their UN obligations. Based on the information in the DG's reports, it would appear that Iran's stockpile of natural uranium is running low. The uranium conversion facility that turns natural uranium into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to be fed into centrifuges has not been used for months.
T.Konyayeva contributed to preparing of the interview.