Iran may be building a third gas centrifuge enrichment plant, according to a report on Monday by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).
The report, posted on ISIS’ website, notes that the question of whether Iran is building a third plant “has been on the minds of Iran watchers in governments around the world since former Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi claimed on August 16, 2010, that “studies for the location of 10 other uranium enrichment facilities” had ended, and that “the construction of one of these facilities will begin by the end of the (current Iranian) year (March 2011) or start of the next year.”
The report notes that Salehi’s successor, Fereydoun Abbassi-Davani, said in mid-2011 that construction on additional enrichment plants was delayed by two years.
Since March 2007, Iran has taken the position that it does not have to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if it begins construction of a nuclear facility, says ISIS, but the IAEA has said that Iran has a legal obligation to do so under its current safeguards agreement.
The IAEA states, according to the ISIS report, that Iran has a legal obligation to comply with modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement. Modified Code 3.1 provides for the submission to the IAEA of design information for new facilities as soon as the decision to construct, or to authorize construction of, a new facility has been taken, whichever is the earlier.
The IAEA also noted in its May 2012 Iran safeguards report that “Iran remains the only State with significant nuclear activities in which the Agency is implementing a comprehensive safeguards agreement but which is not implementing the provisions of the modified Code 3.1.” In 2003, Iran accepted modified Code 3.1 but reneged unilaterally in March 2007, notes ISIS.
“Since then, the IAEA has called on Iran to comply with its legal obligations, which state that Iran cannot unilaterally abandon its safeguards obligations under modified Code 3.1,” the report says, adding that “In response to Salehi’s August 2010 announcement, the IAEA asked Iran in a letter dated August 19, 2010 to provide preliminary design information for this third centrifuge facility. In a letter a few days later, Iran did not provide the requested information and stated only that it would provide the Agency with the required information ‘in due time.’”
The concern, according to the ISIS report, is that “Iran has taken the position that it can delay telling the IAEA about the construction of a nuclear facility until six months before the introduction of nuclear material, based on its original, unmodified safeguards agreement. Thus, under Iran’s interpretation of its safeguards obligations, Iran can essentially finish construction of a gas centrifuge plant before notifying the IAEA of its existence.”
The report adds, “Iran’s decision to defy the IAEA only increases concern that its intentions are to build nuclear weapons. Iran may not in fact declare a plant’s existence six months before introducing nuclear material but instead hold it in reserve for use in a future breakout.”
The satellite images, taken on May 25 and published several days later by ISIS, confirm the destruction of two buildings IAEA inspectors have sought access to.
Two IAEA reports published since late 2011 charge that Iran has engaged in nuclear research of a military nature, and is enriching far more uranium to 20% than its claims of nuclear medicine research can justify.
Iran has systemically obstructed IAEA inspectors seeking access to its nuclear sites in contravention of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.