Exploring Hydrocarbon Depletion
Page added on April 5, 2012
Iran expanded its nuclear program last year with continued uranium enrichment and growing infrastructure development, according to an annual CIA report to Congress.
The report on arms proliferation covering 2011, made public by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), reveals that Iran has produced 4,900 kilograms of low enriched uranium.
“Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure and continued uranium enrichment and activities related to its heavy water research reactor” contrary to U.N. resolutions, the report says.
Disclosure of the report comes amid growing speculation that Israel will conduct a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities and other targets.
Underground centrifuge cascades—banks of devices that produce enriched uranium—at Natanz also progressed, with more advanced centrifuges tested and developed at a pilot plant.
As of November, Iran’s nuclear material stockpile included 4,150 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride and about 80 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium hexafluoride gas.
The report stated that Iran’s centrifuges decreased in number from 8,900 to 8,000 between August 2010 and November 2011. However, the number in operation increased sharply from 3,800 in August 2010 to around 6,200 currently.
A second major nuclear facility was identified in the report as the underground Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant near Qom. Fordow has begun production of “near-20 percent enriched uranium,” the report said. Fordow is a production center for uranium enrichment as a centrifuge research and development center.
The Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr began low-level reactor operations last year, but the plant is not yet operating at full power.
Enriched uranium hexafluoride can be converted chemically into uranium dioxide or metal. Converted metal-enriched uranium is used for nuclear weapons.
Significantly, the report did not mention unanswered questions outlined in a recent International Atomic Energy Agency Report about Iran’s nuclear weapons development.
The U.S. intelligence community continues to state that Iran halted all work on nuclear weapons in 2003 as outlined in a questionable 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.
The IAEA report, which was made public in November, revealed for the first time the extensive development effort by Iran on nuclear arms, including work on a warhead for Shahab-3 missiles and preparations for an underground test.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency also stated that many elements of the Iranian arms program took place after 2003, and that data supplied to the agency indicated the development of nuclear arms is continuing.
Iran has claimed its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but has refused to provide information to international inspectors.
Henry Sokolski, head of the private Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said the report lacks details and “gives very little away.”
“In fact it’s behind the curve of what’s in the news most recently about North Korea and Iran,” Sokolski said. “I guess that’s the price one pays for a consensus report on one of the most important issues of the day.”
Sokolski said the report does provide some worrying signs.
“You do get a hint of the proliferation waive to come, which is going to be from [weapons spreading] from China, North Korea, and Iran,” he said.
The little-noticed report was made public in February after delivery to Congress. It is required under a section of the 1997 Intelligence Authorization Act.
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told the Free Beacon that the intelligence community “continues to believe, as the DNI said in his recent Annual Threat Assessment testimony, that Iran’s leadership has not yet made a decision to pursue a nuclear weapon.”
The CIA reported that Iran continued development of ballistic missiles with increased deployments of short- and medium-range weapons. “We judge Tehran will continue to work on producing more capable [medium-range ballistic missiles] and developing space launch vehicles,” the report said, noting that Iran’s missile arsenal is one of the largest in the Middle East.
The Iranian military is also converting its Fatah-110 short-range surface-to-surface missile into an anti-ship missile called the Khalij Fars. The report said the new missile poses “an additional Iranian threat to military and commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.”
Iranian officials recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically significant chokepoint where some 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.
The threat prompted the Pentagon to say that it would not allow Iran to close the waterway.
Iran announced the launch of two long-range missiles into the Indian Ocean.
During a military exercise last year, Iran also fired Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 short-range missiles and the Shahab-3 medium range missile.
Furthermore, Iran announced that it has developed underground ballistic missile launch silos that it claimed were less vulnerable to attack.
Iran also conducted a satellite launch last year and said it planned additional space launches in 2012.
U.S. officials have said space launches have been used by both Iran and North Korea to develop long-range missiles because the technology involved in both systems is nearly identical.
The report said Iran was moving closer to “self-sufficiency” in building missiles but still relies on foreign suppliers, including China, Russia, and North Korea.
The Iranians also are developing chemical weapons agents and have conducted research indicating “offensive applications,” the report said, noting that Tehran can weaponize chemicals for a variety of delivery systems.
The Iranians have conducted offensive biological weapons research and development in the past and continue to expand the infrastructure for biological arms, the report said.
Regarding arms proliferators, the report identified China, North Korea, and Russia as “key suppliers” of weapons of mass destruction technology and missiles.
“Chinese entities—including private and state-owned firms—continue to engage in WMD-related proliferation activities,” the report said, noting the main customers are Iran and Pakistan.
North Korea’s exports of missiles and related technologies have bolstered militaries in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, the report said.
“North Korea’s relationships with Iran and Syria remain strong and we assess North Korea continues to seek new customers and reengage with previous customers,” the report said.
Russian arms proliferation included supplies of nuclear technology and equipment, including to Iran.