Nuclear Weapons - 2011 Developments
Officials, on January 4, 2011, said that Iran invited several ambassadors to tour the nations nuclear facilities on January 15-16, 2011. Representatives from Russia, China, the EU, and the Non-Aligned Movement were invited to participate; the United States did not receive an invitation. The EU quickly turned down the invitation and on January 15, 2011, ambassadors of 5 countries to the IAEA toured the Arak and Natanz nuclear facilities.
On January 8, 2011, Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Iran was capable of manufacturing its own nuclear fuel rods and plates via an advanced manufacturing unit at Isfahan.
In a statement by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad published on January 7, 2011, Israel had downgraded its assessment of when Iran could conceivably acquire a working nuclear weapon. The newest estimate states that Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon prior to 2015, the result of domestic unrest, international sanctions, and technical difficulties. Previous Israeli estimates said Iran could have a working nuclear weapon within a year or two.
Iranian envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, reiterated on January 21, 2011 that Iran had no intention of ceasing its enrichment of uranium and would not comply with U.N. Security Counsel resolutions asking it to. However, Iran would still cooperate with the IAEA. The envoy also said Iran was ready to enact a trilateral agreement reached in March 2010 between Iran, Brazil, and Turkey in which Iran would trade Turkey most of its 3.5% enriched uranium in exchange for 20% enriched fuel for use in the Tehran scientific research reactor.
An International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) report released on February 3, 2011 contradicts an Israeli report released earlier in the year and claims Iran only needs one, at most two, years to produce a working nuclear weapon. The IISS report said that Iranís current stockpile of low-enriched uranium would be sufficient for one or two bombs. Technical difficulties stemming from faulty centrifuges and infiltration by the Stuxnet worm have delayed the Iranian program. And while the nation has claimed it is self-sufficient in the production of fissile materials, it still relies heavily on foreign imports of certain materials and components, of which it had been more difficult to acquire in the face of sanctions world wide.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was replaced on February 13, 2011 at the behest of President Ahmadinejad. Fereydoun Abbasi was given the position of head of the AEOI, as well as Vice President, for his commitment, piety, and useful scientific and executive records. Salehi was appointed to the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
On February 15, 2011, the Russian Foreign Minister announced that Russia would no longer support sanctions against Iran. He said the possibilities to impose sanctions against those related, even indirectly, to the nuclear program of Iran have been exhausted. Furthermore, the imposition of more sanctions would bring great harm to Iranís economy, leading to social problems for the population. The following day, President Ahmadinejad, in a live television interview, said the sanctions were having no effect on the Iranian economy. He said that prices had risen in only one or two instances, and because of Iranís self-sufficiency in production and supply, prices would decrease and the situation would eventually turn in their favor. He also said the sanctions show the worlds anger with Iran, but it had only served to bolster their determination to work harder.
A report released on March 3, 2011 said that Iranís Bushehr civilian reactor was undergoing more delays, further postponing its official commission. Engineers were forced to remove 163 fuel rods, highlighting concerns that the reactor is not up to safety standards and, moreover, Iran is not ready to operate a nuclear reactor on its own. The IAEA told its Board of Governors on March 7, 2011 that Iran had yet to fully comply with its obligations to establish that their nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. The organization verified that declared materials at instillations and outside facilities under IAEA safeguards had not been diverted to other uses, but not enough information had been provided to clear the entire program.
On April 9, 2011, Faraydoun Abbasi, head of the AEOI, said that Iran had successfully tested its 2nd and 3rd generation centrifuges. The new units would increase the production of enriched uranium and two units are planned to be deployed at the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz to produce fuel for the Tehran research reactor. This announcement came at the same time as the announcement that they had also produced uranium dioxide (UO2) with nuclear purity, necessary for fuel for the Arak reactor, and had begun a production line for different compounds to be made from stable nuclear isotopes.
Iranian envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, asked on April 11, 2011 for France to deliver to Iran the 50 tons of natural uranium being held in the country. He asked that it be delivered to either Iran or Russia for use in the Bushehr civil reactor. And if not all 50 tons, then at least 10 tons to be used to make 100 kg of 20% enriched uranium for fuel in the Tehran research reactor. Soltanieh also noted that a French tribunal agreed that the 50 tons of uranium did indeed belong to Iran.
Junior Assistant President Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said on April 12, 2011 that Iran would soon be one of the worldís leading producers of nuclear fuel rods. The project on manufacturing 20% enriched fuel rods for use in the Tehran research reactor was nearing completion. The AEOI was acquiring necessary materials and providing the facilities, and he assured that it will be functional exactly on schedule.
A senior Russian diplomat commented on May 12, 2011 that Iranís Bushehr reactor would be up and running in a matter of weeks. The reactor, according to the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister was running in a testing mode and at low levels. It would begin producing electricity in the next two months, a far cry from the original mid-February starting time. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on June 7, 2011, that construction of Bushehr nuclear power plant is complete and will start operation in the near future. He said that initially 40 megawatts of power will be put on the cycle from Bushehr Power Plant until it runs with full capacity of 1,000 megawatts.
On 5 November 2011, Israeli President Shimon Peres warned that an attack on Iran was becoming "more and more likely." This statement came as reports began to surface that the IAEA was due to release a report soon thereafter discussing developments in Iran's nuclear program. The report was expected to include accusations that Iran was actively pursuing nuclear weapons.
On 8 November 2011, the IAEA released a report entitled "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran." An entire annex was included exploring a possible military dimension of Iran's nuclear program. The report highlighted developments with limited conventional military or civilian use, accusations of a covert nuclear supply operation (both in terms of nuclear material and other materials and information), potential research into nuclear explosive effects, and associated missile design work. Connections were made to Libya and other countries with regards to providing information and other assistance to Iran that could potentially lead to the development of a nuclear weapon.
The IAEA stated in the report that much of the information had come from a "member state." Iranian authorities immediately dismissed the report as being not only politically motivated, but perhaps even written by the United States. Iran's position remained that its nuclear program was solely involved civilian power generation and that it had clearly responded to all of the IAEA's inquiries about the nature of its program.
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