Former IAEA official says Iran's N-goals in budget bill unreasonable
Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec.18
By Dalga Khatinoglu - Trend:
A former consultant at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says planned targets in Iran's nuclear budget are far from the realities.
Behrooz Bayat who earlier served as consultant at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Trend on Dec.18 that producing 34 metric tons of 5 percent-enriched uranium oxide for next year doesn't sound reasonable.
According to the details of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's budget bill, it is projected that some $181 million would be spent on developing nuclear projects in next fiscal year, which will start on March 20, 2015.
According to the budget details released by ANA news agency (Free University News Agency) on Dec.16, Iran is going to spend some $21 million on uranium reserves exploration, $62.5 million on developing Bushehr nuclear power plant, and about $20 million for various activities like producing 34 metric tons of 5 percent-enriched uranium oxide and 50 metric tons of zirconium sponge.
Bayat said that "the production of 34 metric tons of up to 5 percent-enriched uranium does not sound reasonable because Iran's capability is far from the required capacity- even if we do not take the restrictions agreed to in Geneva between Iran and P5+1 into account".
Iran and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council comprising of China, France, Russia, Britain, the US Plus Germany) are negotiating to reach a comprehensive long-term nuclear deal by July 1, 2015.
According to the interim nuclear accord achieved in November 2013 and extended to July 1, 2015, Iran agreed to keep active centrifuges number unchanged.
Currently, Iran possesses 19,000 IR1 and 1,000 IR2 centrifuges and about half of them are active. Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas has been pumped into these centrifuges for enrichment.
IR1 centrifuge capacity for uranium enrichment is 0.8-1.2 SWU, IR2 - 4-5 SWU. There are also more powerful centrifuges, for example, IR8 capacity is 24 SWU, but Iran hasn't activated the powerful centrifuges yet.
According to the budget bill, submitted by government to parliament, the Iranian government also projected producing some 50 metric tons of zirconium sponge.
Bayat says that "zirconium sponge which is mentioned in the budget plan is a precursor for the production of zirconium itself - by the way, its name stems from the mineral Zircon which due to its color is coming from the Persian word "zargun" (gold-like).".
The nuclear expert of Iranian origin added that "it has properties, making it suitable for alloys that build the cladding of nuclear fuels within the reactors: low level of neutron absorption, corrosion resistivity, ductility, etc. Zirconium has also many other applications in the industry. As for Iran, it is also not reasonable to produce the mentioned amount of Zirconium because Iran itself is not going to build nuclear power plants in the near future, unless it may also be used for other unspecified purposes which usually should not be a subject of contest and a source of concern".
Edited by CN
Dalga Khatinoglu is an expert on Iran's energy sector, head of Trend Agency's Irannews service
Follow him on @dalgakhatinoglu