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May 12, 2006
Weapons-Grade Uranium Found In Iranian Military Site

The IAEA announced preliminary results of tests made on residue found at an Iranian military site that indicates Iran has weapons-grade enriched uranium (also here), not just the low-level enrichment they announced earlier. The report undermines the explanation given earlier by Iran when similar residue was found at a civilian facility:

The U.N. atomic agency found traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian site linked to the country's defense ministry, diplomats said Friday, adding to concerns that Tehran was hiding activities aimed at making nuclear arms.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for revealing the confidential information, said the findings were preliminary and still had to be confirmed through other lab tests. But they said the density of enrichment appeared to be close to or above the level used to make nuclear warheads.

Still, they said, further analysis could show that the traces match others established to have come from abroad. The
International Atomic Energy Agency determined earlier traces of weapons-grade uranium were imported on equipment from Pakistan that Iran bought on the black market during nearly two decades of clandestine activity discovered just over three years ago.

That much is true. However, those traces were found at their civilian research facility, where the Iranians claimed all the equipment from the AQ Khan network had been installed. Finding the enriched uranium at a military facility would call the earlier explanation into question as well as generate questions about why the Iranian military has involved itself in what Teheran purports to be a civilian use of nuclear technology.

Whatever the explanation, the implication is crystal clear: the Iranians have weapons-grade uranium somewhere. The gap between the enrichment level of energy-production and weapons-grade material (5% vs 90%+) is so wide that there is no other explanation for the possession of the latter. And with its discovery on equipment used at the former military base at Lavizan -- a site demolished by the Iranians after the US discovered its covert nuclear program -- it confirms that Iran possesses it for military purposes, not peaceful energy production, for which that level of enrichment is unsuitable anyway.

The US should demand an emergency session of the UN Security Council to address this issue, rather than wait for the two weeks Russia and China demanded before this development became known. If Iran has weapons-grade uranium already in its possession, a nuclear device may come much sooner than the common wisdom of five years. Iran may already have started the process of building the weapon itself -- and if so, the world must act now to keep Iran from using it to extort the UN for Iranian purposes.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 12, 2006 12:31 PM

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