Posted by Curt on 3 April, 2015 at 5:00 am. 3 comments already!


Fred Fleitz:

At a press conference this afternoon, President Obama lauded the preliminary agreement reached with Iran to reduce the risk of an Iranian nuclear weapon, saying “this is a good deal.” He claimed it will keep Iran at least a year away from constructing a nuclear weapon and will be subject to intrusive and unprecedented inspections and verification. This preliminary agreement is the outline for a comprehensive agreement due by June 30.

The details of the framework agreement as spelled out in a White House fact sheet and President Obama’s speech raise many questions about a final deal. It is troubling that no final agreed-upon text has been released and that Iranian and EU officials were vague in their statements about the framework.

Earlier today on National Review, Patrick Brennan wrote about tweets by Abas Aslani, the head of an Iranian government news agency, that show how the Iranian view of the agreement differs from the Obama administration’s view. Aslani tweeted, for instance, that Iran will continue to develop advanced centrifuges during the duration of the deal and “all economic sanctions by EU, US will be lifted immediately including financial, banking, insurance, oil.”

Here are my initial thoughts about the preliminary agreement, based on our knowledge of it at this hour.


Uranium Enrichment
According to the White House fact sheet, Iran will go from 9,000 operational centrifuges to 6,104. Of these, 5,060 will enrich uranium for ten years. All centrifuges will be Iran’s first-generation IR-1 design. The remaining 10,000 operational and non-operational centrifuges will be put in storage and monitored by the IAEA. These machines will be used to replace operating centrifuges.

  • For 15 years, Iran has agreed not to enrich over 3.67% U-235 and not to build additional enrichment facilities.
  • Iran also has agreed to “reduce” its current enriched-uranium stockpile of about 10,000 kilograms (enough to fuel eight or more nuclear weapons if enriched to weapons-grade) to 300 kilograms. President Obama said in his speech today that Iran’s enriched uranium would be “neutralized.”
  • The U.S. fact sheet says Iran will not use advanced centrifuge models for ten years and will develop them according to a schedule worked out under the agreement. However, an Iranian spokesman tweeted that Iran will continue its R&D on advanced centrifuges during the agreement and will do “the beginning and completing process” of IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 to IR-8 centrifuges during the ten-year span of the agreement.
  • Iran will move most of its centrifuges out of its underground Fordow enrichment facility and will not enrich uranium there for at least 15 years. Two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges will be put in storage, and the facility will be used for peaceful purposes.

This agreement will allow Iran to continue uranium enrichment, an activity that the United States has refused to agree to in nuclear-technology cooperation agreements with its friends and allies because it is so easy to use a peaceful enrichment program to make weapons fuel. There is no practical reason for Iran to conduct uranium enrichment with 6,000 centrifuges. It would take about 200,000 centrifuges for Iran to enrich enough uranium to fuel its Bushehr power reactor. 5,000 centrifuges are far too many for other peaceful purposes such as producing medical isotopes or fuel plates for the Tehran research reactor. Moreover, it would be far more economical for Iran to purchase reactor fuel rods, fuel plates, and medical isotopes from other countries.

The Obama administration hopes to address the risks of Iranian uranium enrichment by having intrusive IAEA inspections and by requiring Iran to “reduce” or “neutralize” its enriched-uranium stockpile. From the president’s statement and the White House fact sheet, it appears that Iran is refusing to send its enriched uranium to Russia as the U.S. had proposed. Also, the U.S. fact sheet says only that Iran’s current enriched-uranium stockpile will be reduced; it does not say what will happen to uranium enriched during the agreement.

We also don’t know what the words “reduced” or “neutralized” mean. The Obama administration previously claimed that the risk of Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile had been reduced because some of it had been converted to uranium powder. Experts later discounted this claim because this process can be reversed in about two weeks.

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