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A report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cited “increasing concerns” that Iran is edging ever closer toward the development of nuclear weapons. Adding fuel to those concerns is that the release of the UN report came only days before the Islamist state’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr finally came online for the first time.
Specifically, the nine-page IAEA report cited “extensive” evidence that Iran, in defiance of UN- imposed sanctions, has not suspended its “enrichment-related activities.” Instead, Iran has boosted the production of enriched uranium and upgraded it closer to the level of nuclear weapons-grade. Furthermore, the IAEA found the Iranians continuing to work on heavy water-related projects, including the construction of a heavy water research reactor.
The IAEA report also cited concern over Iran moving its nuclear fuel production program to a well-protected underground bunker outside the Iranian holy city of Qum, a move made earlier in 2011 by the Iranians in an attempt to better protect the program from an air or cyber attack.
The Iranian actions have led the IAEA to conclude that it is unable to provide “credible assurance” about the absence of undeclared nuclear material in Iran. However, what the IAEA could confirm was that it was receiving new information about “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
That finding, however, should come as little surprise given that an analysis from the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has cited Iran’s own admission that since 2007 it has produced more than 4,500 kilograms of enriched uranium, enough to make four nuclear weapons.
For those who believe Iran is in the final laps in its race to develop nuclear weapons, those fears were further amplified when the release of the IAEA report was shortly followed by Iran’s declaration that its Bushehr nuclear power plant had finally come online. Despite being dogged by years of delays, the nuclear plant, built with Russian assistance, has now begun producing nuclear fuel for Iran’s national electrical grid
Somewhat surprisingly, the Iranian response to the IAEA report was decidedly upbeat, given the Islamist state has repeatedly claimed over the years that Western demands against its nuclear program have been politically driven and without merit.
In fact, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asgshar Soltanieh, went so far as to say the IAEA report had some positive parts, calling it “a step forward.” Apparently he believed the report actually verified Iran’s transparency about its nuclear program. According to Soltanieh, the IAEA had really discovered “The cooperation of our country (Iran) in the provision of information and clearing up ambiguities.”
Taking the cooperation theme to the next level, Fereydoun Abbasi, director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), then offered to halt Iran’s four-year attempt to stop the IAEA from investigating intelligence reports that Iran was conducting work on several components of a nuclear weapons program, including designing blueprints for a nuclear missile.
Instead, Abbasi proffered to open up Iran’s nuclear program to full IAEA supervision in exchange for the UN ending all the embargos it had levied against the Islamist state since 2006. Currently, Iran is under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment activities.
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