Stuxnet, Sanctions – Neither Have Stopped Iran’s Nuclear Program

Stuxnet was effective.  It shut the Iranian nuclear program’s centrifuges down.

It did not, however, slow uranium enrichment nor did it do enough to hinder the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.

According to J.E. Dyer, writing for Hot Air, “since Stuxnet was introduced, sometime in the spring of 2009, Iran’s overall rate of uranium enrichment has continued its acceleration.”  Dyer included a couple of interesting and telling graphs in the article:

Graph 1 is a depiction of the total low-enriched uranium (LEU) produced since February 2007, when Iran began enriching uranium hexafluoride (UF6) on an industrial basis.  The numbers are taken from the IAEA reports, which are available here (the latest report from 25 May 2012 is on the ISIS website).

In Graph 1, I have reflected marginal uncertainties in some of the LEU totals reported by IAEA (which obviously affect the average production rate).  The IAEA reports describe the reason for these uncertainties, for those who are interested.  The average production rate of 120kg per month between November 2009 and October 2010 may thus have been lower (and the previous rate higher), although probably not by much.  In any case, with the exception of the most recent IAEA report (the 25 May 2012 document), I have used only totals that were verified by physical IAEA inspection.”

The average monthly production represented by these figures is displayed in Graph 2.  The averages are valid for the months prior to the date on which the average is given, which coincides with an IAEA physical inspection of Iran’s LEU stockpile.

How accurate they may be, if Iran is concealing activities, is another issue.  Through October 2011, however, I have compared apples to apples, using IAEA data, to produce the graphs.”

Graph 1

Graph 2

In May, Iran claimed to have enough LEU to produce 5 nuclear warheads.  However, as Dyer points out, Iran is close to or has already surpassed a milestone, with the medium-enriched uranium being enriched to around 20% purity.

Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy PM and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned Iran that Israel’s “red line” is if Iran fails to immediately halt enriching uranium beyond 3-5%.  The plant at Fordow is currently enriching uranium to approximately 20%.  Additionally, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not been allowed into this plant.

It is believed that it is Iran’s intent to “string the West along” in an attempt to enter a “zone of immunity,” thus shielding us from knowing one way or the other if they have successfully built the bomb.  They are also most likely counting on Russia and China to “decide to moderate a sanctions regime which is going to get a lot tougher in July, perhaps by relaxing bans on civil aviation spare parts for Iran’s lethally antiquated passenger fleet.”

Other concerns surrounding this situation are that the IAEA’s inspections do not address non-nuclear activities such as “making the sophisticated explosive triggers which cause the implosion of the uranium core that sets off fission. For what the Iranians are trying to do is to have all the necessary parts available, with which they could quickly achieve nuclear ‘break out’, with separate work on adapting ballistic missiles to contain a suitably miniaturized and shaped nuclear device in the warhead.”

Appropriate actions need to be taken in order to effectively address Iran’s continued uranium enrichment.  This is not an issue for the back burner.