Iran Denies Agreeing to Ship Uranium to Russia

NYT: It is 'critical to remove from Iran much of the 28,000 pounds of uranium that the IAEA estimated it had produced.'

Mark Langfan ,

Bushehr nuclear reactor
Bushehr nuclear reactor

Fars, Iran’s semi-official news agency, has reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson “strongly rejected” a Tuesday New York Times report, that a “major breakthrough” has taken place in the Iranian nuclear talks. The story had alleged that “Iran has tentatively agreed to ship much of its huge stockpile of [enriched] uranium to Russia if it reaches a broader nuclear deal with the West.”

“Iran Rejects New York Times’ Claims about Shipment of Enriched Uranium to Russia,” says the Fars headline. The story goes on to report that Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzijeh Afkham stated in Tehran: “Iran rejects all speculations and rumors by some foreign media which take place with specific political intentions.”

Afkham also said that Iran “will only consider the national interests of Iran” in the talks.

The New York Times’ article goes on to claim that there are still sizable gaps in the Iranian nuclear talks “including [1] the number of centrifuges the country could keep spinning, [2] the speed at which economic sanctions would be suspended, [3] the fate of a heavy-water reactor that produces plutonium, and [4] whether international inspectors would be free to visit any suspected covert facilities.”

Each of these issues are extremely vital potential deal-breakers. For example, concerning the Arak heavy water plant, Iran could use it to produce weapons’ grade plutonium which would serve as another totally discrete track towards a bomb, using plutonium as its core rather than uranium.

Talks are completely secret

The Times’ article goes on to explain that the Iranian talks are being held in extremely strict secrecy, and that Wendy Sherman, President Barack Obama’s lead Iranian nuclear negotiator, who on Monday was named acting deputy secretary of state, “has refused to discuss any details of the role Russia could play, saying that negotiations, like mushrooms, 'do best in the dark.'”

It must be noted that the same Sherman was the leader of US nuclear negotiatons with North Korea that actually lead to North Korea's obtaining the nuclear bomb. In fact, in 1999, James Baker “criticized her [Sherman’s] team's negotiating strategy with North Korea as 'appeasement' – that was rewarding the North Korean regime for minimal concessions, and he said that as a result they would fail to prevent their nuclear program.”

By claiming Iran will ship out the enriched uranium, the P5+1 nuclear negotiators are trying – in the words of the Times’ article – “To expand the time that Tehran would need to build an atomic bomb. It is critical to remove from Iran a substantial amount of the 28,000 pounds of uranium that the International Atomic Energy Agency recently estimated it had produced.”

The facts are that in 2008 a special unclassified “Section 721” CIA report to the United States Congress for the period ending December 31, 2008, stated that Iran only possessed 630 kilograms of enriched uranium as of the end of 2008. By 2014, according to the Times’ article, Iran possessed 12,700 kilograms of enriched uranium.

This means that over 12,000 kilograms out of Iran’s current holdings of 12,700 of the enriched uranium were enriched by Iran solely during Obama’s tenure in the White House.

If Iran did ship a significant amount of its fuel out of the country, the newspaper adds, this would allow the P5+1 to agree to a deal in which the Iranians could be allowed a larger number of centrifuges.

The article also goes on to allege that “Recently, Iranian officials said the United States had offered to allow Tehran to keep upward of 4,000 centrifuges operating, presumably assuming that there is a reduced inventory of fuel inside the country. But Iran has resisted dismantling any of its 19,000 centrifuges, and the supreme leader has said that ultimately the country plans to operate 10 times that number.”

Since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has times stated many times that Iran should have “zero” domestic enrichment capacity, even America's agreeing to “upward of 4,000 centrifuges” would be a bad deal from the Israeli perspective.

The goal: 190,000 SWUs 

Additionally, the issue of “number of centrifuges” is linked to the “generation” of the centrifuge. The newer and more advanced the Iranian centrifuge, the fewer centrifuges the Iranians would need to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear bomb.

As was reported by Arutz Sheva, earlier in October 2014, the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, stated that "We don't define enrichment on the basis of the centrifuge machines, but on the basis of its unit, that is SWUs.”

According to the report, Salehi underlined that the number of centrifuges needed for having 190,000 SWUs depended on the type of the centrifuge machines.

He also explained why for Iran, the issue is 190,000 SWUs, and not the number of centrifuges: Iran's first generation IR1 centrifuge machines yielded less than 2 SWUs, he said, meaning that "if we want to reach the above-mentioned 190,000 SWUs with the help of these (IR1) machines, then we would need more numbers, while if we use the (the fourth generation) IR4 centrifuge machines which yield 24 SWUs, then we would need less than 10,000 centrifuge machines.”

In short, there appear to be many “gaps” remaining in the Iranian nuclear talks if those talks were to be successful from an Israeli perspective.