Just a reminder: Iran still closing in on the bomb

posted at 7:46 pm on June 4, 2012 by J.E. Dyer

[Only Graph 2 is reproduced with this post.  To view both graphs, see this piece at The Optimistic Conservative.]

The flood of recent disclosures about President Obama’s actions in the national security realm has the infosphere abuzz with soundbites like “playing cards” (decorated with terrorist photos, which the president reportedly uses to select drone victims), “Flame,” and that new-old standby, “Stuxnet.” Some conservatives, in particular, are spending time pointing out that the Stuxnet effort was launched by the Bush administration, that “Flame” apparently was too, and that using the playing cards to pick drone victims is just creepy.

I believe we could be doing better things with our time.  I suggest that we let Obama take whatever credit he wants, and focus instead on the things that matter, such as what Iran is doing and why Stuxnet has been all kinds of fun, but hasn’t, on balance, done jack.  Remember what Stuxnet was for: making centrifuges shut down.  And it apparently did manage to make a number of centrifuges shut down.  But it hasn’t slowed uranium enrichment.  One more time:  it hasn’t slowed uranium enrichment.  It may at most have slowed the rate of acceleration in uranium enrichment.  Stuxnet has had its day, and it didn’t put a significant crimp in Iran’s progress.

It’s nice to think there may be other lines of effort out there, things we haven’t heard about or that haven’t been implemented yet.  But I’ll wait to see the usefulness of the effects first.  Since Stuxnet was introduced, sometime in the spring of 2009, Iran’s overall rate of uranium enrichment has continued its acceleration.

A couple of graphs tell the tale.  Graph 1 is a depiction of the total low-enriched uranium (LEU) produced since February 2007, when Iran began enriching uranium hexafluoride (UF6) on an industrial basis.  The numbers are taken from the IAEA reports, which are available here (the latest report from 25 May 2012 is on the ISIS website).

The average monthly production represented by these figures is displayed in Graph 2.  The averages are valid for the months prior to the date on which the average is given, which coincides with an IAEA physical inspection of Iran’s LEU stockpile.

In Graph 1, I have reflected marginal uncertainties in some of the LEU totals reported by IAEA (which obviously affect the average production rate).  The IAEA reports describe the reason for these uncertainties, for those who are interested.  The average production rate of 120kg per month between November 2009 and October 2010 may thus have been lower (and the previous rate higher), although probably not by much.  In any case, with the exception of the most recent IAEA report (the 25 May 2012 document), I have used only totals that were verified by physical IAEA inspection.

How accurate they may be, if Iran is concealing activities, is another issue.  Through October 2011, however, I have compared apples to apples, using IAEA data, to produce the graphs.

 

Graph 2: Iran's rate of LEU production

 

The purpose of these graphs is not to root out month-to-month differences in production rate, but to demonstrate the overall trend Iran is maintaining, which has been positive, with the rate increasing, at the physical inspection points since 2007.

Between October 2011 and May 2012 – if the Iranian-reported total is accurate (the totals have tended to be accurate or to slightly underreport production) – the average monthly LEU production rate between IAEA physical inspections (in this case, since the last inspection in October) has jumped to 212kg per month, or about a 40% increase in the average monthly rate over the previous period (143kg per month from October 2010-October 2011).  The rate of increase had been significantly smaller in the two years prior to November 2011, but still no lower than 16%.

That period, November 2009-October 2011, was the one in which numerous Western media analyses suggested Iran’s production capability was badly damaged and faltering (see here as well).  Perhaps elements of it were, but the reality is that it hasn’t mattered all that much.  The rate of growth in the average monthly production rate slowed, but still remained positive.  And it appears to have recovered.

The amount of LEU declared by Iran through May 2012 is enough to produce five nuclear warheads.  But Iran is close to (or may have passed) a more significant milestone with the “medium-enriched” or reactor-grade uranium being enriched to approximately 20% purity.  This effort was inaugurated in early 2010.  Most of the known work has been going on at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP), but some work has occurred at the hardened, mountainside Fordo site near Qom, which President Obama announced our knowledge of in September 2009, and which Iran declared to the UN, got on the inspection regime, and began operating in 2011.

According to the 25 May IAEA report, Iran estimates having enriched a total of 145.6kg of uranium to 20% purity.  Fordo has produced 36.4 of those kilograms; the balance were enriched at Natanz.  If the Iranian self-reporting is correct, the program now has more than the 140kg of 20%-enriched uranium nominally required for a nuclear warhead.  (This has not been physically verified yet.  IAEA verified 73.7kg of 20%-enriched uranium in September 2011.)

Meanwhile, the report also states that traces of uranium enriched to 27% were detected at Fordo in February 2012.  (See para. 28 of the 25 May report.)  This suggests that Iran may have begun enriching uranium higher than 20%, which would indicate pursuit of a weapons application.

ISIS reported this month that new imagery of the special facility at Parchin shows suspect buildings being razed, along with other work (i.e., earth-moving) that appears related to sanitizing the site where there was formerly a nuclear-detonator testing facility.  As the short-lived Baghdad talks opened in May, IAEA head Yukiya Amano suggested that negotiators were close to a deal with Iran – under discussion since February – to get inspectors to the Parchin site.  It appears the Iranians are not yet satisfied with the results of their sanitization efforts, however, as the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency said five days later that he wasn’t convinced an inspection was necessary.

AP reported back in mid-May on information from a foreign official about the detonator-testing chamber reportedly set up at Parchin (apparently after 2000).  The foreign official had a description from an Iranian source, which yielded a computer-generated drawing of the test chamber.  According to a former IAEA official interviewed for the AP story, the drawing of the chamber was accurate and appeared to match a photo he had recently seen of the test chamber at Parchin.  There is little doubt at this point that there was a detonator-testing chamber housed at Parchin, probably in the building ISIS reported on earlier this year.  And as a reminder, the US provided the original intelligence on a probable detonator test by Iran in 2004.

No reason to take our eyes off the ball here.  Iran continues to make progress toward nuclear weapons, and attempt to throw the wool over Western eyes.  It seems to be working.  How often do you hear from the MSM about Iran’s progress, as opposed to what President Obama is doing about the problem?

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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Comments

Obama is punting and praying.

Please, Iran, no atomic detonation until after the election.

profitsbeard on June 4, 2012 at 7:52 PM

…JugEars will have EVERYTHING f*ked up in one short term…that will take a generation or more to fix!

KOOLAID2 on June 4, 2012 at 8:00 PM

If Iran needs a bomb, I’m sure that Israel or the U.S. could send one over.

aunursa on June 4, 2012 at 8:00 PM

If Iran needs a bomb, I’m sure that Israel or the U.S. could send one over.

aunursa on June 4, 2012 at 8:00 PM

. . or three!

honsy on June 4, 2012 at 8:02 PM

forget that…look at all this other foreign policies that the nyt has been focusing on….
-lsm

cmsinaz on June 4, 2012 at 8:04 PM

If Iran needs a bomb, I’m sure that Israel or the U.S. could send one over.

aunursa on June 4, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Very nice, annursa. Three thumbs up.

J.E. Dyer on June 4, 2012 at 8:05 PM

If Iran needs a bomb, I’m sure that Israel or the U.S. could send one over.

aunursa on June 4, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Or two, or ten…

Seriously, that was awesome!

MelonCollie on June 4, 2012 at 8:17 PM

As I said in the Green Room thread, the resident Paultards are happy.

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 8:18 PM

SCOAMF !!!

FlatFoot on June 4, 2012 at 8:23 PM

Iran still closing in on the bomb

Right, after the currency crash, the national security crash. Terrific.

petefrt on June 4, 2012 at 8:23 PM

Dear Iran,

In just a few short months, we will be rid of our traitorous president – our really, really big mistake.

And we will have a president who actually takes our national security seriously.

Plan accordingly.

Love,

America

p.s. While you are working so hard to manufacture your first nuclear weapon, remember that we have a boomer full of them sitting off your coast that make it look like a firecracker. And we know ours work.

turfmann on June 4, 2012 at 8:30 PM

Israel has some shiny new German subs to try out, don’t they? :-)

Punchenko on June 4, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Come on! Don’t take your eye off the ball. We’ve got homosexual “marriage” to deal with and the very real and on-going Republican “War on Women”. Priorities people!

Mason on June 4, 2012 at 8:33 PM

As I said in the Green Room thread, the resident Paultards are happy.

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 8:18 PM

I wonder why that is?/

thebrokenrattle on June 4, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Just a reminder: Iran still closing in on the bomb

Obama has no time to worry about that. His top priority, in the few months he has left, is to ensure that Russian (Neo-Soviet) and Chinese (Neo-Maoist) military technology overtakes our own.

Tick-tock tick-tock … Gonna be close.

minnesoter on June 4, 2012 at 8:35 PM

This too shall come to pass. The answer is in the well.

Bmore on June 4, 2012 at 8:44 PM

Just a reminder, Iran is a sovereign nation. Once again, the same people who roll their eyes when America is referred to as an empire or its actions as imperial, are gnashing their teeth that America isn’t acting as one.

Save us from the neocons.

Dante on June 4, 2012 at 9:22 PM

If Iran needs a bomb, I’m sure that Israel or the U.S. could send one over.

aunursa on June 4, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Instant thread winner.

Archivarix on June 4, 2012 at 9:22 PM

As I said in the Green Room thread, the resident Paultards are happy.
catmman on June 4, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Again with the Paul”tards”? Are you 12? Why would Ron Paul supporters be happy if this article were true? That would give our government exactly the pretext that it is looking for to preemptively strike Iran.

Of course, beyond the provocative title, this post has more qualifiers than you can shake a stick at. The author expects the reader to take it as an article of faith that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons when there is very little, if any, actual evidence to suggest Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.

I don’t know if they are trying to produce a nuclear weapon but the title of this post is obviously provocative but fails to deliver much in the realm of facts to back it up. Personally, I would be very concerned if they were proven to be developing nuclear weapons because the neocons are horny for war in general, but for war with Iran in particular.

iwasbornwithit on June 4, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Paultard is unhappy…

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 9:33 PM

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 9:33 PM

Hey did you ever start sending your government bennies back to the US Treasury? I gave you the address for where to send your checks to. If you lost it then I can post it again since you are so patriotic.

iwasbornwithit on June 4, 2012 at 9:45 PM

What bennies? Oh my military pension? As for sending the treasury any more money this year, I sent them a big enough check back in April. If they spend that money wisely…

It’s about you Paultards just being tickled pink about Iran getting the bomb.

be proud of your support for dictators, Paultard.

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 9:59 PM

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 9:59 PM

Yeah I am soooo happy that idiots like you will use this to beat the drums of war with Iran. Fantastic. Retired military? When did you serve? Branch? MOS?

iwasbornwithit on June 4, 2012 at 10:07 PM

Why, so you can denigrate my service? Like Dante and Pitchforker and other Paultards have done to other servicemember, veteran and wounded warrior commenters?

I don’t wanna got to war with Iran either, but supporting a terror regime and justifying that support by hiding behind ‘sovereingty” is ridiculous.

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 10:22 PM

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Who has denigrated your service here? I know you’re a one-trick pony: “Oooh! A Ron Paul post! I will impress everyone by calling Paul supporters ‘Paultards’!” So we get it. You really don’t like Ron Paul or his supporters.

BTW, every time I have mentioned my service here, it has been denigrated by the liberal progressive Romney supporters like yourself. So go ahead and share your story.

iwasbornwithit on June 4, 2012 at 11:09 PM

Bomb Schlomb! We got more important news. A man ate a face in Miami’s South Beach. Bloomberg is saving NYC from 32 oz sugared soda sales. Hollywood bimbos with heavy breasts and light morals think Obama is the best president since Ben Franklin!!!!

MaiDee on June 5, 2012 at 12:19 AM

They’ll keep going. Everyone knows now that if you give up your weapons program like Muammar Gadaffi did the Americans smile and shake your hand and then kill you, but if you get the bomb you are immune like Pakistan.

David Blue on June 5, 2012 at 3:59 AM

iwasbornwithitm I also see little evidence that Iran is building a bomb but much evidence that neocons want war.

But if the Iranians don’t want a bomb, why not? In their shoes I would.

David Blue on June 5, 2012 at 4:08 AM

Good. I’m glad. Lets do this; remind them that the first use, or ATTEMPTED use of said nuke will get their country nuked from existence. This going to war to impose our will crap has to stop. So lets just threaten them with assured destruction, and mean it, then move on.

libertarianlunatic on June 5, 2012 at 7:24 AM

Just a reminder, Iran is a sovereign nation. Once again, the same people who roll their eyes when America is referred to as an empire or its actions as imperial, are gnashing their teeth that America isn’t acting as one.

Save us from the neocons.

Dante on June 4, 2012 at 9:22 PM

Just a reminder, Iran is a sovereign nation that seeks to destroy Israel and export nuclear terrorism to US soil. But in your mind that’s probably moral equivalence.

Save us from the brainless libs.

SKYFOX on June 5, 2012 at 7:41 AM

Let them have the bomb. Who are they going to hit with it? Israel? They will be turned to glass. New York or Washington? OK, but same answer as above. Europe? Deserves it and will get more Muslims (in city centers) than others. All scenerios show persia desappering from the face of the Earth.

Old Country Boy on June 5, 2012 at 7:52 AM

Just a reminder, Iran is a sovereign nation that seeks to destroy Israel and export nuclear terrorism to US soil. But in your mind that’s probably moral equivalence.

Save us from the brainless libs.

SKYFOX on June 5, 2012 at 7:41 AM

You actually buy into that propaganda? Besides, I’m not a citizen of Israel; Israel is not the United States. Their affairs are their own.

Dante on June 5, 2012 at 9:08 AM

Personally, I would be very concerned if they were proven to be developing nuclear weapons because the neocons are horny for war in general, but for war with Iran in particular.

iwasbornwithit on June 4, 2012 at 9:29 PM

+100. Even if they’re only developing nukes as the only effective “Keep Off, America” sign, like Pakistan, there is some risk that they’ll try to smuggle one into a US city.

This gives the neocons a legitimate threat to rail about, unlike with Saddam Insane, who was a monster but knew darn well his reign wouldn’t last another hour if he played with nuclear fire.

Old Country Boy on June 5, 2012 at 7:52 AM

Horrible but true. Israel would flatten not only them but most of the Middle East as well, our response goes without saying, and Europe…well…we just can’t save their bacon forever.

Why, so you can denigrate my service?

catmman on June 4, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Where do you think you are, Daily KOS? Drop the frigging martyr complex already. We’re more inclined to feel sorry for the fact that you obviously sustained head injuries in the line of duty than ‘denigrate your service’.

MelonCollie on June 5, 2012 at 9:57 AM

Drop the frigging martyr complex already. We’re more inclined to feel sorry for the fact that you obviously sustained head injuries in the line of duty than ‘denigrate your service’.

MelonCollie on June 5, 2012 at 9:57 AM

On cue.

Stay classy, Paultards.

catmman on June 5, 2012 at 11:43 AM