Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 31, 2012

IAEA: Iranian "Nuclear Danger" Decreased

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) just released its most recent report (GOV/2012/37) on the state of Iran's nuclear program.

As usual this report is used to hype up the "nuclear Iran" scare. The London Times even headlines Iran is stockpiling weapons grade uranium, a new reported finds (sic) which is completely false as even its own report below that headline says:

The Israeli diplomat said that Iran was in the process of doubling its capacity at Fordow to about 1,500 centrifuges, increasing the amount of 20 per cent-enriched uranium it could produce. Uranium enriched to 20 per cent fuels Iran's main research reactor, but it is also just below the level usable in nuclear bombs.
Not only is any Uranium Iran has below weapons grade but, according to the new IAEA report, Iran has today less enriched Uranium that could quickly be converted into a nuclear weapon than it had in May 2012, the time of the IAEA's last report (GOV/2012/23) on the issue.

Critics of Iran's nuclear program are most concerned with the Uranium Iran enriches to a level of 20% U-235 isotope. This enriched Uranium, critics say, could be quickly enriched further to up to 95% and then be used to manufacture a nuclear explosion device.

But enriched Uranium can have several forms. For enrichment natural Uranium is converted into Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and, slightly heated and under pressure, fed as a gas into centrifuges to separate out the U-238 isotopes. This increases the content of U-235 isotopes needed for nuclear reactions. The enrichment product with 20% U-235 is still in the form of UF6 which could be again fed into a centrifuge cascade for even higher enrichment levels.

But UF6 is not usable as nuclear reactor fuel. For reactor use the UF6 has to be converted into Triuranium oxtoxide (U3O8) and from there into Uranium dioxide UO2. These can be formed into fuel elements to be fed into a reactor. Once this is done there is no easy and quick process to convert these fuel elements back into UF6 for further enrichment. Enriched UF6 once converted into U3O8 and UO2 fuel plates is thereby not directly usable for producing bomb grade uranium and of little proliferation concern.

Iran needs fuel elements with 20% enrichment level for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) to produce nuclear isotopes for medical purposes.

According to the May 2012 IAEA report Iran had, at that time, enriched 110.1 kg 20% enriched UF6 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) in Natanz and 35.5 kg 20% UF6 in the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Fordow, of which 25.1 kg had been withdrawn from the enrichment process (para18, para27). Of the total of 145.6 kg 20% UF6 Iran produced 1.6 kg was blended down to various lower enrichment levels for experimental purposes (para19). Of the 144 kg left 43 kg went into the fuel plate fabrication and converted into 14 kg of 20% enriched U3O8 and manufactured into fuel plates (para38). At the time the May 2012 IAEA report was written Iran had stockpiled 101 kg of 20% U-235 enriched UF6.

According to the new August 2012 IAEA report Iran has up to now enriched a total of 124.1 kg 20% enriched UF6 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) in Natanz and 65.3 kg 20% UF6 Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Fordow (Fig2, p12). Of the total of 189.4 kg 20% enriched UF6 1.6 kg was downblended, 96.3 kg was fed into the conversion into fuel plates and in August 2012 only 91.4 kg is stored in Iran as UF6 (Fig4, p13).

Iran has now 10% less "dangerous stuff" in the form of further easily enrichable 20% UF6 than it had in May 2012. Further enriched this stockpile would not be enough by half to create even one nuclear device. The "imminent danger" of a "nuclear Iran" has thereby decreased.

We can reasonably assume that Iran is doing this decrease on purpose and will in future convert any newly produced UF6 into fuel plates. This will keep its stock of UF6 at a level below what is needed to make a quick run towards a nuclear device. 

But as the whole "nuclear Iran" scare has little to do with reality but a lot with U.S. and Israeli desire to subjugate Iran and thereby further their global and regional domination we can not expect to read about this reality in any of the western propaganda media.

Posted by b on August 31, 2012 at 08:53 AM | Permalink


In addition, I'd like to refer to Clinton Bastins interview:

Posted by: m_s | Aug 31, 2012 9:02:32 AM | 1

More double standards: "The Flood of Syrian Refugees Threatens Regional Stability and Underlines Price of Inaction."

Funny how non of these dire consequences was ever mentioned when the US created millions of Iraqi refugees...

Posted by: JohnH | Aug 31, 2012 11:23:06 AM | 2

The IAEA, as usual, has released its Iran report to the NYTimes and other media outlets, and perhaps to some favored clients, but not yet to the general public.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 31, 2012 11:53:10 AM | 3

This enriched Uranium, critics say, could be quickly enriched further to up to 95% and then be used to manufacture a nuclear explosion device.

re: "quickly enriched"
This is sometimes called nuclear "breakout" which has been the subject of speculation and study. One study was about a year ago by David Albright and his crew at Albright's "Institute for Science and International Security" (ISIS) which is frequently the source of anti-Iran propaganda, most recently about the Iran military site in Parchin. The ISIS report concerned uranium at Iran's Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP).

from Albright's ISIS report (pdf), Sep 20, 2011, which analyzed various estimates of breakout:

Given the problems at the FEP during the past year, even while mitigated by Iran’s modest success in producing 19.75 percent LEU, ISIS found on balance no justification to change its earlier breakout estimate of six months at the FEP.

Of course Iran would have to expel the IAEA inspectors prior to any such breakout, then initiate the six month process, enriching uranium to weapons grade. Then, presuming it had the designs ready, it would have to construct a nuclear bomb (or warhead) and test it (important). Then and only then could Iran go ahead with the construction of bombs or warheads. It is unrealistic to believe that the US and others would be sitting blithely by while all this was going on. It would not be a quick process.

The exclusive purpose of the IAEA, according to the NPT, is to ensure that uranium fuel is not diverted to weapons programs. In this latest report, as in all other recent reports, the IAEA states that "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs." That includes 16 nuclear facilities and nine locations outside facilities (LOFs) where nuclear material is customarily used.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 31, 2012 12:30:04 PM | 4

Iran's nuclear program: 4 things you probably didn't know:

1. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
2. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons.
3. Iran has a legitimate need for more energy, which is driving its nuclear efforts.
4. The US and Israel both say Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

Regarding "thing" number three, Iran isn't alone in the Middle East. Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and the United Arab Emirates are turning to atomic energy to save oil reserves for overseas sales. Kuwait, the fifth-biggest oil producer among OPEC members, plans to build four nuclear power reactors by 2022. Saudi Arabia, which says electricity demand could soar from around 45 gig watts (GW) to 120 GW by 2035, commissioned the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) in 2010 to draw up a plan for reducing reliance on oil and gas.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 31, 2012 1:27:17 PM | 5

Cyrus Safdari's Analysis:

Posted by: m_s | Aug 31, 2012 2:15:29 PM | 6


Uranium that has an assay of 235U from the natural level to 20% is called low enriched uranium (LEU).

from the IAEA: (pdf)
Naturally occurring uranium consists of a combination of chemically identical isotopes, by weight about 99.3 % 238U, 0.7 % 235U and trace amounts of 234U. Through complex physical processes that exploit the slightly different masses and/or other physical characteristics of the different isotopes, uranium can be ‘enriched’ in the 235U isotope, which is the primary fissile isotope of uranium.

Of all the known uranium enrichment technologies, gaseous diffusion and gas centrifugation of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) are the primary means that have been used to enrich uranium throughout the world. These enrichment techniques gradually increase the proportion of the 235U relative to the 238U in the ‘product’ stream (enriched uranium), and also produce a ‘tails’ stream that is lower than natural uranium in its 235U content (depleted uranium, or DU).

Uranium that has an assay of 235U from the natural level to 20% is called low enriched uranium (LEU). Typical fresh power reactor fuel has 235U assays below 5%. Uranium with an assay of 235U equal to or more than 20% is called high enriched uranium (HEU).

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 31, 2012 6:42:46 PM | 7

conversion into fuel plates

In my #4 one must add the time to convert gas to metal plates.
--from Clinton Bastin, h/t m_s @#1

The one I most emphasize is the failure to recognize that a nuclear weapon cannot be made of gas. The gas must be converted to metal, a difficult and very dangerous process because of the high potential for a critical accident (like a nuclear reactor without shielding) that would kill anyone in the room or nearby.
Iran has no experience with this process, and no facilities to carry it out.
Assembly of metal components with high explosives is even more dangerous, because a nuclear explosion would kill those within half a mile.
Because of the difficulties, Iran would need 10 to 15 years to make a weapon, after diversion of low-enriched uranium, which would be immediately detected by IAEA inspectors.

Ten to fifteen years!! Who knew.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1, 2012 12:13:50 AM | 8

@Don.Bacon #7: You've made the same tiny little mistakes as is made in the MSM and in the Board of Governors Reports. The TRR uses 19.75%-U235. This is LEU, is getting propaganda-HEU by increasing the percentage to 20.

Posted by: m_s | Sep 1, 2012 2:13:25 AM | 9

M_S @ 9: The official designation of HEU is assigned to 20.00+% enrichment, 19.75% is officially LEU, so once again it's much ado over nothing...!

Posted by: CTuttle | Sep 1, 2012 3:48:58 AM | 10

@CTuttle, #10: Don.Bacon's quote of the IAEA document:

Uranium with an assay of 235U equal to or more than 20% is called high enriched uranium (HEU).<7BLOCKQUOTE>

Posted by: m_s | Sep 1, 2012 9:24:03 AM | 11

DB 5: Thanks for the four points. If our MSM was really doing it's job, these would be known to the cattle that our general public has become. But, that wouldn't fit the narrative being constructed against Iran. One can always dream.

Posted by: ben | Sep 1, 2012 10:42:50 AM | 12

@ m_s #9
I didn't make a tiny little mistake. Nomenclature matters. Iran is enriching "to 20%" which according to the definitions I posted is less than 20% and that's low enriched uranium (LEU) not high enriched uranium (HEU). Low does sound better than high, right?
IAEA Report: "189.4 kg (+43.8 kg since the previous report) of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1, 2012 11:35:49 AM | 13

Gareth Porter (again) picks up the ball I threw and runs with it: IAEA Report Shows Iran Reduced Its Breakout Capacity

Unfortunately he didn't credit me ...

Posted by: b | Sep 1, 2012 2:00:33 PM | 14

the past.... From history commons:

(1969. Rumsfeld hires Cheney as aide.)

1975. The admin. of Gerald Ford produces a strategy paper commending Iran’s decision to develop a massive nuclear energy industry. The document cites Iran’s energy security as a prime reason for supporting the plan. Tehran needs to “prepare against the time—about 15 years in the future—when Iranian oil production is expected to decline sharply,” the paper says. The “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.”

1975, 1976. Kissinger wants to help Iran achieve nuclear capacity. Ford gives permission to sell nuke technology to Iran.

1975. Rumsfeld becomes Sec of Def (under Ford.) Bush senior > head of CIA. Dick Cheney becomes Chief of Staff. (Rumsfeld previous Chief of Staff.)

1980. Iran bombs Iraq nuke facility, Osirak. Israel sells US made arms Iran.

Later 1980. M. Begin to Jerry Falwell:

“Tomorrow you’re going to read some strange things about what we’re going to do. But our safety is at stake. I wanted you, my good friend, to know what we are going to do.” Israel is preparing to use US-provided F-16s to destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor (see June 7, 1981). Begin is concerned that the US will object to Israel’s use of the aircraft for non-defensive purposes.

history commons, see for ex:

Posted by: Noirette | Sep 1, 2012 2:35:59 PM | 15


"That higher level enriched uranium has been the main focus of U.S. diplomatic demands on Iran ever since 2009, on the ground that it represents the greatest threat of an Iranian move to obtain a nuclear weapon capability."

The problems with "main focus" statements like this are:
1. 19.75U has never been mentioned, to my knowledge, in any of the many sanctions orders issued by President Obama. The US has in fact purposely used vague language like "illicit nuclear program" and "nuclear ambitions."
2. As I posted above @#4 & 8, any time difference in producing nuclear weapons from either 4.75U or 19.75U is essentially non-existent, and so the higher-enriched uranium doesn't represent a greater threat. We're talking about months or years, and that would be after Iran evicted the UN inspectors.
3. The real issue with Iran as explained by Flynt & Hillary Leverett, among others, is not nuclear it's Middle East hegemony. Iran has it and the US wants it. The US sanctioned Iran long before Iran enriched uranium.

So Porter doesn't understand the true nature of this concocted crisis.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1, 2012 2:53:57 PM | 16

Speaking of the past look at this.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1, 2012 2:56:28 PM | 17

Don Bacon: I'd say Porter does indeed know the true nature of the bogus "crisis". He just doesn't emphasize it in most of his articles. A lot of commentators don't because it implies the US is a corrupt nation which further implies that the US electorate no longer has control over its government (if it ever did) and that doesn't go over well, despite being completely true. In other words, Porter is too scared of his journalistic reputation to make accusations of that sort. He's not alone. Most commentators are like that. Look at Tony Karon over at TIME Magazine...

Porter's main problem is that he continues to believe that Obama does not want a war with Iran. Well, but Obama does. Obama just doesn't want it done on anyone else's time table but his. But he will attack Iran when he thinks he can get away with it. He's like a pre-emancipation South plantation foreman. He does what his masters tell him to do. He may resent it, he may drag his heels, but he likes his Uncle Tom status too much to refuse to do what his masters order him to. And his masters - the Crown and Pritzker families who financed his political career - are Jewish military-industrial complex corporation stockholders who want Iran attacked. So he will.

What Obama is going to do next year is implement a "faux naval blockade". He will arrange for Western nations to refuse to dock ships and planes which have docked in Iran. This is equivalent to a full scale naval blockade but which allows Obama to claim that it's not actually an "act of war" and to blame Iran when Iran retaliates by closing the Strait of Hormuz thus forcing the war to start.

This is the way Obama operates - he's a slick-talking liar who stabs people in the back secretly. And it's amazing how many fools still buy his BS.

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Sep 1, 2012 7:50:17 PM | 18

@RSH #18
Porter's statement in #16 doesn't suffer from wrong emphasis, it's flat untrue in many ways, which is remarkable for such a short statement. In addition to the problems I mentioned, and the fact that it's untrue, there is the phrase "diplomatic demands," an oxymoron that while it describes US policy it is lousy journalism.

"Porter is too scared of his journalistic reputation. . ."

He should be, with writing like this. Scared progressives are a larger danger that blatant neocons and neolibs, because since they're 'inside the tent' whatever trash they write is blindly accepted.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 2, 2012 12:01:02 AM | 19

Dang, Dick Hack, and here I thought I was a dour pessimist...! I'm not so inclined as to think that Oily Bomber does in fact want the confrontation with Iran...! Maybe I'm still an optimist at heart...!

Posted by: CTuttle | Sep 2, 2012 12:49:12 AM | 20

There is no such newspaper as The London Times.

There is a newspaper called The Times which is published in London.

All other newspapers with "Times" in their names (The Irish Times, The Straits Times, The Times of India, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, etc.)derive the name from The Times.

I know that New Yorkers usually refer to The New York Times as "the Times", and that is fine in New York. Websites like this one are international. If you want to make it clear to parochial New Yorkers that it is the London paper you are referring to, you can say The Times, (London).

That should keep things clear.

Posted by: RoHa | Sep 3, 2012 9:37:06 PM | 21

"This is the way Obama operates - he's a slick-talking liar who stabs people in the back secretly. And it's amazing how many fools still buy his BS"

Look, truth is, ya gotta be an effin' idiot to buy ANYTHING that comes out of that shithole known as "Washington DC". From either side of the aisle. If Obama wasn't a lying sack of shit, he never woulda made it to the White House. Its the one criteria you MUST meet if you intend to slither into the Oval Office.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Sep 7, 2012 12:02:39 AM | 22

"Unfortunately he didn't credit me ..."

He'll get a chuckle out of your sniveling. And he still won't credit you. Which begs the question; is it worth sniveling over?

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Sep 7, 2012 12:39:50 AM | 23

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