West should find ways of removing low-enriched uranium in Iran

Politics Materials 28 May 2011 17:38 (UTC +04:00)
West should find ways of removing low-enriched uranium in Iran

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 28 / Trend T. Konyayeva /

The West should not restrict itself to the sanctions regarding the Iranian nuclear program. It should seek the ways to remove low-enriched uranium accumulated in the country and to reduce Iran's concern about security, the director of the Russian Center for Public Policy Research Vladimir Evseev said.

"The West should not restrict itself to the bans, because Iran effectively finds loopholes to overcome the sanctions," a member of Trend Expert Council Evseyev said over phone from Moscow. "As far as one can judge, they are not so critical for the Iranian economy. It is necessary create the conditions to remove low-enriched uranium from circulation in Iran and to reduce Iran's concern about security."

Iran continues accelerating the volumes of low-enriched uranium, despite tightening of international sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Reuters reported citing a confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on May 24.

According to the document, the volumes of low-enriched uranium accumulated by Iran since 2007 reached 4.1 tons. It hits 0.5 tons more than in February. According to the experts, this volume of low-enriched uranium (in case of its further enrichment) is enough to produce at least two atomic bombs.

The IAEA published new data on the Iranian nuclear program next day after the EU extended sanctions against Tehran. On May 23, the foreign ministers of the EU countries included about 100 Iranian companies in the list of sanctions. The sanctions include freezing of their accounts.

Evseyev said that it is impossible to stop Iran's nuclear program by imposing sanctions.

"Iran is likely to follow Japan's way now, that is, it creates the opportunities for the production of nuclear weapons, but it does not produce it," he said. "It creates technical potential, which can allow it this. But it is difficult to restrict the creation of this potential."

Iranian nuclear program has caused concern since 2003, when the IAEA became aware of its concealed activity. In late 2003, Iran signed the Additional Protocol to the NPT and voluntarily announced about the suspension of uranium enrichment. However, it returned to this activity. Iran insists that as a party to the NPT it has the full right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

The expert thinks that Tehran may make a decision to create nuclear weapons if it has serious concerns about safety, for example, concerns about the West's desire to change the ruling regime in Iran.

"If Iran has serious concerns about its safety, one can offer them everything, but they will eventually produce a bomb, because only nuclear weapons will stop the West from intervening in domestic affairs of the country," he said.

The expert said that at present, taking into account the IAEA's last report, it is necessary to say that a plant should be built in Iran to produce nuclear fuel.

"If we consider the issue in terms of nuclear proliferation, the enterprise does not represent a danger because uranium hexafluoride must be converted into the oxide form to make pills and produce nuclear fuel," he said. "Apparently, Iran already possesses the technology which is not so technically complex and closed for Iran to fail to implement it."

The production technology of fuel elements or they are also called assemblies (fuel elements are assembled from the pills) is not critical in the field of nuclear proliferation either, he said.

"There are a number of advantages to establish this enterprise in Iran with the consent of the West," the expert said.

First, he thinks that this enterprise can be created specifically for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, that is, some amount of low-enriched uranium may not be produced once with the help of this enterprise, for example, as for the Tehran research reactor, but on a regular basis.

Second, the expert added that Russia has an agreement with Iran to deliver the used nuclear fuel after using at the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

"But it is not stipulated who produces the fuel," he said. Let's suppose that if we [Russia] produce fuel elements, to be used at Bushehr plant, after refining, Russia has the right to take them to the Russian territory. It means they will not remain in Iran and will not be a potential threat to produce plutonium."

He called control ensuring as the third advantage of this enterprise. "That is, we limit the production of low-enriched uranium and control its costs," the expert said.

The expert thinks that the implementation of his proposal is beneficial for Iran, because it solves the problem, voiced by Tehran repeatedly. There is a need for nuclear fuel.

"In this case, Russia could take on the issue of certifying nuclear fuel," he said.

The expert said that about 20 tons of low-enriched uranium are necessary for one annual loading into the reactor. But Iran lacks them. "What is the way out? First, it is possible to load assemblies from different manufacturers in a single zone of a nuclear reactor. It was done in Ukraine. The U.S fuel was used with the Russian one in one active zone," - he said.

Moreover, one can offer Iran to turn out uranium for one own load, that is, Iran will produce fuel at the enterprise, created by Russia.

"It is necessary to start a process not to regularly put low-enriched uranium into circulation but produce the material for peaceful use," he said. "If we do not do this, Iran will accumulate more and more low-enriched uranium with a much higher degree of purity. When it is ready for production a nuclear bomb, Iran may decide to create it."

The uranium enriched up to 3 or 5 percent is used as fuel for nuclear power plants. The repeated enrichment process leads to the production of uranium with a higher degree of purity. The weapons-grade uranium must have 90-percent-purity. The expensive and lengthy process of obtaining the highly enriched uranium is carried out with only one purpose to manufacture nuclear bombs.

However, the West does not accept my proposal to establish such an enterprise, because it considers it the one-sided concession that it can not make.

"Therefore, my proposal must be viewed as either a package or a concession from the Iranian side, because the West will not agree to this without any preconditions," he said.
The expert said that Tehran's statements about the need for the production of its own fuel for new reactors are unfounded, as Iran has not actually started to implement its program to build additional reactors.

"The accumulated reserves of low-enriched uranium are too small to provide its own nuclear power," he said. "Moreover, there are too little reserves of natural uranium in Iran. It will be also a deterrent. Iran is not ready either to create light-water nuclear reactors or to provide them with nuclear fuel independently."

In mid-April, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoun Abbasi said that Iran will accelerate the pace of enriching uranium up to 20 percent growth to build 4-5 research reactors, producing medical isotopes, over the next few years.

According to the IAEA previous report, there were about 8,000 gas centrifuges, used to enrich uranium in Iran by late February. About 43.6 kilograms of uranium that can be enriched up to 20 percent were produced. Iran announced about the production of 17 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium in June 2010.

It is planned to load the first batch of its own enriched uranium to the research reactor in Tehran in September 2011.

The proposed way is not to help Iran to completely provide itself with fuel, as it is completely unrealistic. It envisages the complicity in this process, but in case of using the accumulated low-enriched uranium, he said.

"Having this approach, perhaps, it would be possible to move Iran's issue from the dead point, because otherwise we drive the situation into a corner," he said.

The expert thinks that the growth of confrontation, for example Iran with Gulf countries, the deterioration of the situation in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may lead to Iran's decision to create nuclear weapons.

"Israel will strike Iran. Later, the U.S. will join," he said. "Eventuall, everything will affect such a country as Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, this scenario is real. My proposal allows to overcome the impasse, in which the West is."