This news strikes me as a potential bombshell. If the Nucleonics Week report is accurate (and there’s some uncertainty among experts about how serious the contamination problem is), the Iranian nuclear program is in much worse shape than most analysts had realized. The contaminated fuel it has produced so far would be all but useless for nuclear weapons. To make enough fuel for a bomb, Iran might have to start over — this time avoiding the impurities.

You’ve got to hand it to the Iranians, though, for making the best of what might be a bad situation: In the proposal embraced in Geneva, they have gotten the West to agree to decontaminate fuel that would otherwise be useful only for the low-enriched civilian nuclear power they have always claimed is their only goal.

“It’s especially cheeky for Iran to try to leverage as a concession their willingness to receive international cooperation in supplying nuclear fuel,” noted George Perkovich, the director of the nonproliferation program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace…

And where did the equipment at the malfunctioning Isfahan conversion plant come from? You can bet that the Iranians have been worrying about that one for a while. Indeed, the Iranians are probably wondering what other parts of their vaunted nuclear establishment may be prone to malfunction.

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