Two months ago, this column reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found traces of radioactive activity at a site in Iran that was labeled the “atomic warehouse” by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during a September 2018 UN speech. Now we learn that two diplomats tasked with assisting international oversight of Iran’s nuclear programs have confirmed to Reuters that the inspectors not only discovered the radioactive traces but that the traces were identified as Uranium. Uranium is one of only two fissile elements with which one can make the core of a nuclear bomb
While the uranium was reportedly not highly enriched, meaning it was not purified to a level close to that needed for weapons, its presence was still a violation of the JCPOA.
On Saturday, Iran announced it now uses arrays of advanced centrifuges prohibited by the 2015 nuclear deal and can enrich uranium “much more beyond” current levels to weapons-grade.
“Speaking to journalists while flanked by advanced centrifuges, Kamalvandi [Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran] said Iran has begun using an array of 20 IR-6 centrifuges and another 20 of IR-4 centrifuges,” AP reported. “An IR-6 can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as an IR-1, Iranian officials say, while an IR-4 produces five times as fast.”
Thus, while the Uranium found by the IAEA wasn’t purified to weapons grade, it can be made so quickly. There would be no reason for Iran to enrich uranium quickly unless it chooses to make the leap to atomic weapons.
“Iran is stifling a United Nations probe of its alleged storage of nuclear equipment and radioactive material in Tehran, diplomats say, leading to fresh concerns about Iran’s activities at a critical moment for the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The diplomats said Iran has refused to provide answers to important questions raised by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency over allegations, first made public by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a year ago, that Iran had established a now-dismantled site in Tehran to store equipment and material used during past nuclear weapons work.”
In his UN speech, Netanyahu said that in August 2018, Iranians cleared from the atomic warehouse 15 kg of enriched uranium they had kept secret from IAEA, which housed another 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material.
The Iranians then denied the allegations and claimed that the facility was a carpet cleaning. The truth is that the carpet business is across the street from the atomic warehouse.
At the time of his speech, Netanyahu demanded that the IAEA inspect the site immediately. IAEA leaders chaffed at the suggestion (they don’t like to be told what to do), but eventually visited the atomic warehouse earlier this year, long after the suspicious materials had vanished in August 2018 and Israel revealed details about the site in September. Thankfully nuclear inspectors were still able to detect radioactive particles, corroborating Israeli claims about the purpose of the warehouse.
According to Israel’s Channel 13, which broke the original story in July, “Israel gave the International Atomic Energy Agency information about the suspected warehouse, and UN inspectors visited the site several times, in March , taking samples of soil at the site to discover traces of radioactive materials and preparing a report on their findings.”
In an April 2018 televised speech, Netanyahu revealed a Mossad operation that retrieved a cache of files from an “atomic archive” in Iran, proving that Tehran ran a secret program to build nuclear weapons. Iranian leaders have long said their nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes. Netanyahu revealed tens of thousands of pages of documents, which he said were copied from a “highly secret location” in Iran. He said the documents, which was obtained sometime in February, shows Iran was “brazenly lying” about its nuclear weapons program and moved all of its nuclear files and designs to a secret location, proving the country was not complying with that key provision of the nuclear deal.
Why is that important? Because many politicians and news commentators will blame the latest revelation on President Trump’s decision to leave the flawed JCPOA. But the timeline of Netanyahu’s revelation shows that the Mossad had the Iranian documents BEFORE the US withdrew from the deal. Indeed the documents were written prior to Trump moving into the White House.
So, while Iran and the Democratics will claim that the Islamic Republic’s recent incitement is being done to get back at the US from pulling out of the deal, the documents secured by Mossad before Trump pulled out proves that Iran was violating the deal long before the withdrawal.
The public version of the quarterly IAEA report issued last week ago did not mention the Uranium find because inspection-related matters are highly confidential. However, some reports indicate the full report document contains a scathing review of Iran’s actions with regards to the JCPOA. The US is pushing for the full report to be made public. The IAEA’s policy-making, 35-nation Board of Governors, holds a week-long quarterly meeting starting on Sept. 9, but most assuredly most of the board including Britain, France, Germany, and Russia will demand the full report remain a secret.