Iran Is on the Verge of Weapons-Grade Uranium Enrichment

As the pressures of international negotiations faded, Tehran risked talking about enriching uranium up to weapons grade (80-90 percent) – not for a bomb, but as nuclear fuel for cargo ships and oil tankers. Iran doesn’t have any nuclear-powered ships, nor the technology to produce nuclear fuel engines. All the same, Iran’s deputy navy chief announced that nuclear propulsion is being considered for its submarines.
After long weeks of internal disputation on these projects, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources report that Tehran decided in mid-debate to fly a trial balloon by having certain Majlis lawmakers publicly advise the government to go into the home production of nuclear-powered vessels – and wait to see where the ball dropped.
The argument among Iran’s powers-that-be is over tactics and the prudence of going public on the enrichment upgrade while nuclear talks with the six powers are still nominally ongoing – although the latest meeting Tuesday, July 23, in Istanbul in between Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and European Union External Policy Executive Deputy Helga Schmid got exactly nowhere.
Proponents of moving beyond the talks and owning up to HEU (high uranium enrichment) offer the following arguments:
Iran set its feet on track for high-grade enrichment in 2010 when it began 27-percent enrichment at the underground Fordo plant.
In the second half of April, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were deliberately allowed to “randomly discover” this. When they asked Tehran to explain why they had not reported on this activity to Vienna as required by the international agreements signed by Iran, the answer was that production had run into a technical glitch which the plant was still trying to overcome.

The amount of highly enriched uranium for a submarine would yield two bombs

The proponents further argue that after the cat was out of the bag, none of the five powers engaged in talks with Iran, even the US or Israel, made a fuss; indeed they allowed the disclosure to be drowned in other sensations. Iran could therefore afford to show the same kind of nonchalance.
Dr. Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the IAEA and head of its Department of Safeguards, this week reported on “speculation that nuclear propulsion will be used as a bargaining chip to trade away or as justification for continuing uranium enrichment and getting to higher enrichment.
He explained: “Traditionally, naval reactors use highly enriched uranium (HEU) for fuel to reduce reactor size. American submarines use HEU fuel enriched up to 97% and nuclear-powered Russian icebreakers are up to 75%. If we put aside the question of if Iran will make good on its proclaimed intent, this is what it could mean in terms of enrichment: Iran would need to produce approximately 50 kg of 90% HEU or 100 kg of 45% HEU to power a (small) 50 MWt submarine. The HEU produced under the first scenario is equivalent to the amount needed for 2 nuclear weapons.
But before that, a land-based test reactor of the same scale would need to be constructed. In sum, with those two reactors and additional materials needed for testing and manufacturing, such a project would require HEU amounts equal to half a dozen nuclear weapons.”

Red herrings, decoys, tricks and diversions

Clearly, the discussion in Iran and “leaks” on the wisdom of producing nuclear-powered ships and submarines are no more than a red herring to divert attention from the Islamic Republic’s constant drive for weapons-grade fuel. It is but the last of a series of similar decoys.
The production of 3.5 percent enriched uranium was disguised in the first place by Iran’s declared intention to build nine reactors to produce electricity “for peaceful purposes.”
DEBKA-Net-Weeklys Iranian sources report that there was no such plan.
According to the IAEA’s latest report, Iran has accumulated more than 140 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium, whereas the Russian-built reactor at Bushehr is still the only such plant in Iran.
After Iran had cut its teeth on the low grade product and collected three tons of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, it moved on, claiming that a higher grade, 19.5 percent, was needed purely for its small research reactor in central Tehran.
That demand caused a diplomatic showdown with the West following which Iran broke off negotiations and carried on with its 20-percent enrichment program regardless.
Today, Iran demands that its right to produce uranium enriched to 20 percent be recognized as legitimate and non-negotiable unless sanctions are first lifted. They know this won’t happen.

Seven-to-ten years for Iran to produce a nuclear-powered engine

The ‘plan” to build nuclear-propelled ships and submarines is the latest trick in Iran’s arsenal of deception.
US-led sanctions on the supply of fossil fuel for Iranian vessels are presented as leaving Tehran no other option for maintaining its trade with the world.
Allahverdi Dehqani, a member of the Majlis industrial committee, announced this week that a decision to explore the technology for building nuclear-powered engines would soon be approved and go to a broader forum: “We are entitled to enrich uranium to any level necessary to fuel our ships,” he said. We are fully entitled to maintain our trade ties with the world even if we are denied fuel.”
The ayatollahs are reluctant to admit they lack technology for anything, but DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian experts estimate that it will take Iran seven to ten years at least to attain the capability for producing a nuclear-propelled engine.
One thing is certain: China and Russia will not sell Iran this technology. Unaided, it will take Iranian scientists years and big bucks to get there.
But that is not the point: Behind the pretense of building those engines, the Iranians will forge ahead with the manufacture of 80-90 percent enriched uranium in the quantities they seek for manufacturing dozens of nuclear bombs.
We are still in the world of tricks and diversions.

Khamenei: Just a little more patience for the Mahdi’s coming

As Dr. Heinen calculated, the 50 kilos of 90 percent HEU for powering a small submarine would be equivalent to the amount for two nuclear weapons.” And that is only the first scenario.
Opponents of the latest piece of trickery fear Iran will lose whatever credibility it still has in the international arena and elicit harsher sanctions once the world discovers that Iran has no ships or engines for the high-grade uranium in production.
However, the inner circle of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard Corp’s top command refuse to bow to fear and urge diplomatic assertiveness as the only way to get Iran where it wants to go.
In recent weeks, our sources report, Khamenei’s messengers have been going around parliament and quietly assuring lawmakers that “divine achievement” was very close and only a little more patience was required for enduring world sanctions.
Personnel at the Revolutionary Guards nuclear and missile units received the same assurance, and pep talks were given to raise morale in the army. The “Coming of the Mahdi” was at hand, they were told, a euphemism for completion of the nuclear fuel cycle, and soon “Islamic civilization would rule the world.”

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