Significant Progress on Reducing Iran’s Uranium Stockpile

With all the bad news coming out of the Ukraine, it’s nice to report significant progress on rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For the first time in a year, that nation’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has shrunk to the point that it can no longer be further enriched to make a weapon. While cautious optimism is in order, that is really good news. Here are some key excerpts from a February 26 article covering this development (emphasis added):

Bloomberg reports today that “Iran’s agreement to halt nuclear activities in return for limited sanctions relief has shrunk its most sensitive uranium stockpile to less than the amount needed to make a weapon for the first time in a year.” …

Robert Kelley, a former nuclear weapons analyst with over 35 years of experience in nuclear weapons issues at Los Alamos National Laboratory and other U.S. Laboratories, and a former Director at the International Atomic Energy Agency focusing on analysis of weapons-related nonproliferation issues, explains in a recent paper, “Iran has made a huge concession in diluting its 20 percent enriched material and has made many other transparency concessions. Many of the recent gestures were apparently made in good faith.” He further explains, “By far the most convincing concession is the dilution of all 20% enriched uranium down to 5% enrichment. This act irreversibly destroys all of the higher enrichment that has taken place to date. Of course the material can be turned back into hexafluoride and re-enriched, but this is equivalent to all the work of the last few years being re-done.”

Today’s Wall Street Journal echoed that good news:

The United Nations atomic agency said Thursday that Iran is complying with the interim nuclear deal it signed with six major powers last November. … The IAEA said Iran has also met its pledge not to carry out major work on its planned heavy water reactor in Arak, which could in the future produce plutonium. It has also, as promised, provided further information on its plans for the reactor.

The agency said Iran also has kept within the agreed research and development limits for uranium-enrichment work under the interim accord.

The first article goes on to warn, however, that hawks in Congress risk derailing the sensitive negotiation. Hopefully, the administration’s efforts will prevent that from happening.

We also need better news on the Ukrainian crisis, but alas, that does not look likely. My big concern right now is that we don’t blunder into a nuclear standoff as we did in 1962 over Cuba.

Martin Hellman

About Nuclear Risk

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects your credit card. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic.
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2 Responses to Significant Progress on Reducing Iran’s Uranium Stockpile

  1. CS says:

    One worry about this now is that Russia will retaliate against the West by conceding the lawsuit by Iran to get the missiles they bought from Russia (but were not delivered as a favor to the US).

  2. Nuclear Risk says:

    Yes, Russia has more levers than Congress seems to realize. We need to remember that retaliation is a two-way street.

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