Iran’s nuclear program: contradictions still remain

Iran’s nuclear program: contradictions still remain

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov.21

By Dalga Khatinoglu - Trend:

Six leading states of the world have started negotiations with Iran on its nuclear issue.

It has been agreed to sign a long-term nuclear deal before Nov.24, or to extend the temporary agreement.

Iranian and Western representatives state that the main problem is the volume of the uranium enriched by Iran, as well as the issues related to lifting the sanctions imposed on Iran.

Iran's opportunities and demands

Currently, Iran possesses 19,000 IR1 and 1,000 IR2 centrifuges and only 9,000 of them are operational. Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas has been pumped into these centrifuges for enrichment.

Moreover, a nuclear plant with the capacity of 1,000 megawatts operates in Iran. Although the construction of Bushehr nuclear power plant started before Iran's Islamic Revolution, Germans suspended the implementation of this project in 1979.
Iran and Russia reached an agreement in 1992 to construct Bushehr nuclear power plant. The plant's construction was resumed in 1996 and it began to operate in 2011. Under the contract, Russia undertook to provide the plant with fuel throughout 10 years.

Russia delivered 112 metric tons of 3.5-percent enriched nuclear fuel to the Iranian side in two batches. This volume is enough for the plant's operation until 2021.

Currently, Iran itself is able to provide both the raw uranium extraction and fuel production, but one can say that the volume of uranium reserves in the country is equal to zero.

Iran says it needs uranium enrichment and fuel production, but the reserves of the Shagand and Garchin uranium mines are not enough.

The country's uranium reserves will be able to provide the Bushehr nuclear plant only for three years.

If we take into account all of the uranium reserves of the country, Iran will be able to annually produce up to 100 metric tons of yellow cake, while the plants need 200 metric tons annually.

The yellow cake is enriched after its conversion into the uranium hexafluoride (UF6).

Regardless of the number of uranium reserves in the country, in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has the right to enrich uranium itself. But the issue causes doubt of the western countries.

On the other hand, Iran signed a contract with Russia to build four new nuclear reactors.

The two reactors will be built at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. By 2022, then Iran will have three nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts in Bushehr. Russia also takes over providing these reactors with nuclear fuel for ten years. It is still unknown how Iran ranking first in the world in natural gas reserves (33.6 trillion cubic meters) and fourth in oil reserves (157 billion barrels) will be able to provide so many reactors with fuel after 2022.

Uranium enrichment

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi said on November 20 that Iran will need 190,000 SWU (separative work units) in eight years. IR1 centrifuge capacity for uranium enrichment is 0.8-1.2 SWU, IR2 - 4-5 SWU. There are also more powerful centrifuges, for example, IR5 capacity is 24 SWU.

Thus, it is impossible to say how many centrifuges Iran will need. But the country's officials are talking about the need for the centrifuges with a capacity of 190,000 SWU. This number is large. And at present, the US and Europe urge Iran to keep active only 1,500 IR1 and IR2 centrifuges.

Another problem is the period of the long-term nuclear agreement. Iran wants short-term, while the West wants the agreement to cover at least 20 years.

Thus, Iran will have to keep the centrifuges with maximum capacity of 2000 SWU (separative work unit) active for the next 20 years. But Iran does not agree with it.

Official Tehran also demands that the sanctions against the country would be lifted simultaneously. But it is almost impossible, since the lifting of sanctions in some states depends not on the government but the parliament. For example, now the Republicans are the majority in the US Senate and the US Congress. On the other hand, the main opponent of Iran, Israel, has a great influence in the United States.

In any case, there is a lot of controversy between the positions of P5+1 and Iran, and it is quite difficult to imagine that these problems will be solved until November 24. But the parties can again extend the time for discussion.

Iran also has other problems with the IAEA. Thus, the Secretary General of the organization Yukiya Amano said Nov.20 that Iran has still not answered the two questions of the IAEA. They related to Iran's purported experiments with large-scale high explosive tests at the Parchin military site and neutron calculations, which could be applicable to any attempt to make nuclear bombs. Iran said that the charges are unfounded and based on false documents.

It should be noted that in November 2014, the parties signed an interim agreement. The document was being executed from January 20 to July 20, and then it was extended to four months. And now, the parties may extend the period for rapprochement.

Dalga Khatinoglu is the head of the Trend Persian Service

Edited by CN

For any questions or feedback, follow the author on Twitter: @dalgakhatinoglu.

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