Nuclear Iran?

| Fri Feb. 20, 2009 3:40 AM EST
The bad news: inspectors have discovered that Iran has more enriched uranium at their facility in Natanz than they thought.  The good news: they haven't enriched it to weapons grade yet, and apparently don't have immediate plans to do so:

In a report issued in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it had discovered an additional 460 pounds of low-enriched uranium, a third more than Iran had previously disclosed. The agency made the find during its annual physical inventory of nuclear materials at Iran’s sprawling desert enrichment plant at Natanz.

....“You have enough atoms” to make a nuclear bomb, a senior United Nations official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the topic’s diplomatic sensitivity, told reporters on Thursday. His remarks confirmed estimates that private nuclear analysts made late last year. But the official noted that the material would have to undergo further enrichment if it was to be used as fuel for a bomb and that atomic inspectors had found no signs that Iran was making such preparations.

....In Paris earlier this week, the head of the United Nations nuclear agency, Mohammad ElBaradei, said Iran appeared to have made “a political decision” to do less enrichment than it physically could.

David Albright's assessment is bleak: "They have reached a nuclear weapons breakout capability. You can dance about it, but they would have enough to make 20-25 kg of weapons-grade HEU."  And this: "If they break out they will do it at a clandestine facility, not at Natanz, so you can't use Natanz as a measure of how fast they could do it. The Iranians have stopped telling the IAEA about the production of centrifuges...so the agency doesn't know how many they are making."

The foreign policy challenges for the Obama administration just keep barrelling along, don't they?

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