Iran had plenty to celebrate on its National Nuclear Day Friday, April 9. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled the new "third generation" centrifuge which he claimed was capable of six times the speed of the machines in current use in Natanz and there and then proclaimed Iran a nuclear power.
He had three more reasons to crow:
1. Iran's first atomic reactor at the southern town of Bushehr began its main and final test at high temperatures after eight months of test runs. If all the components of the Russian-built 1000-megawatt plant work smoothly, the reactor will finally go into full operation in June or in August at the latest after years of delays.
Mahmoud Jafari, who heads the project, said all parts are working well and there is no reason why the plant should not start producing electricity before the end of this year. On March 18, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin also said Bushehr would go on stream this summer.
debkafile's military sources report that the spent fuel rods from this reactor will soon be providing Iran with an easy and plentiful source of weapons-grade plutonium.
2. So too will the Arak heavy water plant which Iran has been building secretly southeast of Tehran in violation of its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations. Work there was discovered this week to have advanced by leaps and bounds and brought the project close to completion, against all estimates that the reactor would not be ready before 2015.
Our military and intelligence sources note that Arak and Boushehr will combine to provide Iran with the large quantities of plutonium for nuclear warheads. This fissile material has advantages over enriched uranium in its accessibility from heavy water and light water reactors, its smaller size for a nuclear explosion, and its use in smaller and lighter nuclear warheads for delivery by smaller missiles.
A former IAEA official, John Carlson, once warned that large light water reactors "of the sort Iran is building at Bushehr can produce 330 kilograms of near-weapons grade plutonium – enough to make more than 50 crude nuclear bombs." The process of separating plutonium from spent fuel "employs technology little more advanced," he said, "than that required for producing dairy products or pouring concrete."
3. Jafari also announced on the occasion of National Nuclear Day that Iran had uncovered in the central province of Yazd large new deposits of uranium ore plentiful enough to make Iran independent of foreign imports for both its military and civilian needs.
debkafile's political sources add: These three breakthroughs on Iran's road to a nuclear weapon are radical enough to put Tehran in the driving seat in negotiations with the 5+1 Group (five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) over its illicit production of enriched uranium and their offer to process it outside Iran as a compromise gesture.
Iran has shown the world it no longer needs outside help for reprocessing uranium up to the critical 20 percent level, which is a short jump to weapons grade and the fissile core of a nuclear bomb. Tehran has made good use of every second allowed by the US-led world powers' lame efforts to dissuade it from its nuclear goals by means of partly-effective sanctions, attractive incentives and diplomatic engagement, a policy which gained momentum after Barack Obama became US president.
Even this week, he was still telling Tehran that the door to diplomacy still stood open.