Other aspects of Iran’s nuclear program

Other aspects of Iran’s nuclear program

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 27 / Trend D.Khatinoglu/

Concerns around Iran's nuclear program are not limited to enriching uranium aimed to producing Uranium-235 used to either peaceful purposes in low-enriched uranium (LEU) or nuclear warhead in case of increasing enrichment level up to 90 per cent, but there are other concerns around it, including processing Uranium-238, Beryllium, Polonium, plutonium and etc. All of these materials have military usage.

"There are other concerns around Iran's nuclear program excepting producing U-235, but this aspect of Tehran's nuclear activities has been made embossed because of political reasons," Iranian origin political analyst Mehdi Mahdavi Azad, author of a book about Iran's nuclear program told Trend via phone from Berlin.

Enriching uranium increases the proportion of uranium atoms that can be "split" by fission. When uranium is produced, it consists of about 99.3 per cent uranium-238 and 0.7 per cent uranium-235. As uranium gets enriched, the density of isotope 235 raises. For making nuclear warhead uranium should be enriched above 90 percent

Both isotopes 235 and 238 have military usages.

Iran says enriching uranium in 3.5-percentage and 20-percentage levels is vital for its nuclear plants. This country owns respectively 105 kg and 5,441 kg of 20-percentage and 3.5- percentage enriched uranium.

The Western countries, alongside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) doubt Iran's nuclear goals, accusing Iran of probable military dimensions of its disputed nuclear program. So far, the UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of resolutions on Iran, asking halt its uranium enrichment program and accept the Additional Protocol of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Parchin Military Complex

Iran's main military manufactory Parchin, near Tehran, has been suspected on doing nuclear tests there since 2004.

IAEA former chief Mohammad Elbaradei asked Iran to show its activities in Parchin when rumours arose around this subject that Iran has been conducting secret experiments involving 'high-explosive shaped charges with an inert core of depleted uranium' (uranium from which most of the fissile isotope uranium-235 has been removed) to test the characteristics of an implosion type nuclear weapon.

Depleted uranium (DU), a waste product of uranium enrichment, has several military applications. It was used as armor-piercing ammunition in international military conflicts and was claimed to contribute to health problems.

Iran denied the allegations, but allowed the IAEA to inspect there twice in 2005. IAEA reported in February 2006 that inspectors 'did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited', and that 'environmental samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material.'

Tension rose around Parchin again, when recently in November 2011, IAEA Chief Yukia Amano said during a report that he suspected that Parchin was the site where explosives related to nuclear weapons have been tested in recent years.

Iran refused this time to allow a team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to visit its military base at Parchin.

Mahdavi Azad says the results of Iran's recent refusal are various. In 2004, Iran accepted 93+2 Program and the Additional Protocol which allows IAEA to inspect all suspicious aspects of Iran's nuclear facilities including the probable military dimensions whenever IAEA wants, but Iran has exited from 93+2 Program and Additional Protocol since December 2005.

"IAEA never asked Iran again to inspect Parchin legally in framework of NPT, because Iran has not any obligation according to NPT to show its military complexes to IAEA," Mahdavi Azad said.

Iranian expert added that the rumors around military strike over Iran's nuclear facilities have been raised. Iran has launched several war games and according to military experts Iran bluff of its military might. The fact that among IAEA delegation that traveled Tehran two military inspectors existed should be taken into account. "Iran never allows foreigners to know its military might and power accurately," he said. Iran wants to get significant compensations from the West countries to accept Additional Protocol again, otherwise, Tehran will never do that.

Plutonium, Beryllium and Polonium

Behrooz Bayat, Iranian origin expert and former advisor of IAEA chief said last week during an interview with Persian Staff of RFE/RL that Iranian government has worked on producing Beryllium and Polonium as well as increasing its enriched uranium reserves, but nobody speaks about it.

Thin plates or foils of beryllium are sometimes used in nuclear weapon designs as the very outer layer of the plutonium pits in the primary stages of thermonuclear bombs, placed to surround the fissile material.

Polonium when mixed or alloyed with beryllium is used as a neutron trigger or initiator for nuclear weapons

Nuclear experts say polonium 210 is one of the most toxic materials known to science. A tiny speck can kill.

Even so, experts initially saw the highly radioactive material as a poor candidate for dirty bombs because skin or paper can easily stop its distinctive rays. It must be inhaled, injected or ingested to do harm.

Iran has also plutonium-producing reactor in the city of Arak, another core is used for making nuclear bomb.

Mahdavi believes that according to latest surveys, Iran probably doesn't work on nuclear weapon, but wants to get prepared technically to level when it can make nuclear weapon whenever it decides.

"The case of uranium-235 is highlighted due to political reasons, because it's understandable for common people, but, the concerns over other aspects of Iran's nuclear program have been mentioned in Amano's reports," he said.

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