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March 9, 2006
Iranian Plutonium Development Started In 1990s

All Things Beautiful points readers to a Ha'aretz report on the Iranian nuclear program that shows Iran has not only used the ostensible effort for domestic nuclear power as a front for its weapons program, but that the Iranians have been developing this weapons program for longer than first thought. Western experts have studied the plutonium that it found during the IAEA inspections and determined that the enrichment occurred years earlier than first thought:

In concurrence with growing diplomatic tension over Iran's nuclear program, on Thursday it emerged that intelligence services in the West are convinced that Iran is taking covert means to develop nuclear weapons, in addition to the nuclear program under the partial supervision of the IAEA. Russian intelligence is believed to agree with this assessment.

According to the IAEA interim report from late February, a document was found that alludes to Iranian attempts to create the components of an atomic bomb. ...

The Iranians admitted about three years ago to separating small quantities of plutonium, which is clearly associated with atomic arms development. (The materials needed to build an atomic bomb can be acquired either by enriching uranium or by producing plutonium.)

Inspectors who examined the plutonium concluded, judging from the amounts found, that the Iranians must have started creating the plutonium in the mid-1990s and not three years ago.

This development creates a completely different outlook on the amount of time it will take Iran to put together a nuclear weapon. Estimates of their progress had been built in part around the relatively short period of time that Iran had produced plutonium. Now, however, the estimates of plutonium production have been extended from three years to over ten. That would appear to undermine the current estimates of ten years until Iranian weapons development reaches fruition. It may well be considerably shorter than that, and given the number of covert facilities for its research that Ha'aretz describes, the Iranians appear to be working on the fastest possible timetable.

That information will undoubtedly figure into the deliberations over the options the US has in forcing an end to Iranian weapons development. The time is getting shorter, perhaps much shorter than the US has estimated. The UNSC has the issue in its hands at the moment. If it fails to take action -- and veto-wielding Russia already has publicly asserted that the IAEA referral was "too hasty" -- then once again the US will have to decide whether to act in its own security interest or whether to stand by while the UN issues proclamations in place of concrete measures to rein Iran in. We cannot afford the twelve-year quagmire we experienced over Iraqi intransigence.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 9, 2006 6:15 AM

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» The Importance of Being Nerdly from Presto Agitato
The various debates, over the last few years, involving possible nuclear weapons in North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, have necessarily involved a discussion of Uranium, enriched Uranium, and Plutonium. Unfortunately, the subject being a highly-technical top... [Read More]

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