Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept. 24
By Umid Niayesh - Trend:
The U.S.'s new proposal to remove the pipes that connect the centrifuges that enrich uranium could be understood as an attempt to overcome the current deadlock in nuclear negotiations with Iran, an Iranian nuclear expert says.
The U.S. proposal aims to limit the Iran's enrichment capacity as much as possible without physically removing the centrifuges, Behrooz Bayat, a former consultant at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Trend Sept. 24.
Ahead of the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1(five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), the New York Times reported that Washington was considering putting a new plan on the table that would focus on removing the piping that connects the centrifuges, instead of demanding that Iran cut the number of centrifuge machines from 19,000 to no more than 1,500.
The details of the U.S. proposal are not unveiled, however it may include specific parts or all connections which will lead to halt of enrichment partly or completely, Bayat said.
He believes that the details of the proposal were deliberately left open for negotiations.
"The proposal can open the current deadlock in the nuclear talks," the expert said.
Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent of the uranium-235(U-235) isotope. The remaining 99.3 percent is mostly the U-238 isotope which does not contribute directly to the fission process (though it does so indirectly by the formation of fissile isotopes of plutonium).
Most reactors are Light Water Reactors and require uranium to be enriched from 0.7 percent to 3-5 percent U-235 in their fuel.Each centrifuge separates U-235 from U-238 in a specific level, Bayat said, adding the percent of the U-235 increases gradually from the one centrifuge to next in the cascade (some hundred of centrifuges are chained together in each cascade).
If the connection between the centrifuges is removed actually the enrichment will not be possible, he explained.
Bayat went on to note that in terms of saving the negotiation's process it can be effective, however if we hypothesize that the Islamic Republic needs to maintain its enrichment processes the proposal will not be effective.
The expert also said that the enrichment process is not economically justified for Iran, however the Islamic Republic insists on keeping its nuclear program as an honor issue.
Bayat also underlined that the level of the enrichment is not a disputed issue currently and theU.S. new proposal can completely halt Iran's enrichment capacity.
"Iran has already accepted limiting the uranium enrichment under 5 percent and now the issue is the capacity of the 5-percent enrichment," the expert explained.
The western side is concerned that Iran may break its word in the future, expel the IAEA inspectors, exit from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in a short time produce weapons-grade uranium, he said.
And vice versa, Iran mistrust that the West would drag its feet on removing the sanctions, Bayat underlined.
The U.S. and its western allies want to extend Iran's nuclear "breakout time" as long as possible (the time required to enrich enough uranium for one nuclear bomb), Bayat underlined. However the expert believes that the western side's concerns are exaggerated while Iran's nuclear activities are under surveillance and containment of the IAEA.
The U.S. suspects Iran of developing a nuclear weapon - something that Iran denies. The Islamic Republic has on numerous occasions stated that it does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, using nuclear technology for electricity generation and medical purposes instead.
Iran and the P5+1 agreed to extend their nuclear negotiations until Nov. 24 after failing to meet the July 20 deadline to reach a deal on curbing the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for ending sanctions.