The Implications of Iran’s Second Enrichment Plant INSS Insight

On Friday, September 25, 2009 Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it had a second uranium enrichment plant under construction. Suspicions concerning a parallel, concealed enrichment program were in fact circulating for some time before the announcement. Iran reportedly disclosed the information to the IAEA because it discovered that Western intelligence agencies became aware of this parallel program and wanted to avoid further embarrassment.

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Moving Towards Ezekiel 38-39

“Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:”
—Ezekiel 38:5

Editors note about the word PersiaMany Bible teachers believe Persia is the area of present day Iran.

“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safelyStrongs 983: betach, beh´takh; from 982; properly, a place of refuge; abstract, safety, both the fact (security) and the feeling (trust); often (adverb with or without preposition) safely:—assurance, boldly, (without) care(-less), confidence, hope, safe(-ly, -ty), secure, surely. all of them.”
—Ezekiel 38:8

The main question is, of course, what is the purpose of this construction. According to the information released by the US, this hitherto unknown facility is located inside a mountain near the ancient city of Qom and designed to hold some 3000 gas centrifuges, the machines that perform the enrichment process. Iran’s main enrichment plant, located at Natanz, can accommodate some 54,000 gas centrifuge machines. At the present rate of operation at Natanz, these can produce low-enriched uranium for barely one refueling per annum of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The 3000 machines at the second plant would produce some 5 percent of the annually needed amount. Thus Iran’s claim (as reported by the IAEA spokesman) that the new enrichment plant is intended for peaceful purposes, and that it would not enrich uranium above the 5 percent level, is not at all convincing. This whole mountainside installation could have been accommodated in a corner of one of the existing huge enrichment halls at Natanz. The Iranian president offered a rather lame explanation that the new plant was to be the backup in case the Natanz plant was harmed.
What, then, could have been the real purpose of this second, secret and probably well-protected enrichment plant? Two answers come to mind: that the plant was intended to enrich natural uranium outside the inspectors’ purview to whatever levels Iran decided on, probably producing bomb-capable high enriched uranium (HEU); or, that this was the place where uranium would be enriched from the 5 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) produced at Natanz to HEU levels. If the first answer is correct, the question of the origin of the feed material comes to mind. Would it come, (legally or otherwise) from the Esfahan UCF, or from another, clandestine, plant? If the second answer is correct, the 5 percent feed would be either illegally and clandestinely diverted from the Natanz enrichment plant or from its IAEA verified storage, or taken from the storage place by Iran after the inspectors were ordered out of the country (perhaps after apparent “slights” to the regime, or some such like excuses). This is also called the “breakout” scenario.
In the first case, the second enrichment plant, when operational, would have the potential to enrich enough natural uranium to military-grade levels, to make one explosive nuclear core in a year of operation. In the breakout scenario, the HEU would be obtained more rapidly, producing about four times the amount of HEU than in the first case, since most of the enrichment work is done in achieving the 5 percent level. In any case, the purpose of this enrichment plant cannot have been for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.
One apparent and almost immediate result of this disclosure was the fury of some of the P5+1 leaders. A demand was made that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities no later than the end of December 2009. But would this be enough? If this demand is met, it must be accompanied by several other measures:
• All uranium that had been enriched in Iran would be either diluted back to “natural” concentrations (by remixing the product with the “tails” of the enrichment process), or transferred out of the country;
• All uranium in Iran would be accounted for and placed under safeguards, including the raw “yellow cake”;
• All centrifuges would be shut down, and no new centrifuges would be installed;
• The IAEA Additional Protocol would be employed in full, with some added measures, to gain additional access rights.
In addition, and because Iranian declarations on this matter are highly suspect, the work on the construction of the IR-40 natural-uranium heavy water reactor should be discontinued. Iran will be permitted to purchase all the radioisotopes it needs from other countries.
One cannot, of course, forget the outstanding issue of Iran’s military nuclear program. The US administration still holds by its National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessment that it was stopped in 2003, and that as of 2007 there was no evidence that it was restarted. It may well be true that there is no fresh evidence that the military program was restarted. Yet in fact, three possibilities must be taken into account: a) that the NIE assessment is correct; b) that there is simply a lack of intelligence concerning this program; and c) that the program was already finalized by 2003. This last one can be correct if Iran received the design of the nuclear explosive device from Pakistan, in the same way that Libya reportedly did. Taking the NIE as a solid indication that Iran mended its ways would be a gross error. The emergence of the second enrichment plant is an indication of this.
When the initial fury subsides, the P5+1 leaders will likely try to reach an agreement that will not humiliate Iran. Rather than a strong rational measure, this would be a gesture aimed at placating Iran and some of Iran’s friends, and not compromising the stability of the world’s energy supplies or the considerable trade between Iran and Western Europe. This, however, could well be a prescription for a future disaster.
Should Iran accept the suspension of its weapons’ related activities, including the acceptance of all the above conditions, it would still be quite difficult to persuade anyone that Iran has really abandoned its nuclear weapons development program. Who would be able to state with any certainty that Iran had not constructed a third, concealed, uranium enrichment plant?

  1. Terry, 30 September, 2009

    Anyone who thinks that Iran’s program will be fully disclosed is fooling themselves. The Iraqi and Afghanistan war simply diverted the attention of the west. They are in full swing and if the western powers do not come together to militarily remove this arsenal (and seek out the hidden plants) we will see the fullfillment of Ahmedinajad’s threats against Israel as well as the introduction of the Al Mahdi. Educate yourselves and please see Joel Rosenbergs’s web blog. Jesus will be here soon you can count on that. Spread the word of Jesus.

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