Iran Opens Uranium Enrichment Plant

Defying U.N., Iran opens nuclear reactor – Yahoo! News

Iran Opens Uraniam Enrichment Plant Photo An aerial view of a heavy-water production plant, which went into operation despite U.N. demands that Iran roll back its nuclear program, in the central Iranian town of Arak, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Saturday, after the inauguration of the plant, that his nation's controversial nuclear program poses no threat to any other country, even Israel 'which is a definite enemy.' (AP Photo/ ISNA, Arash Khamoushi) An Iranian plant that produces heavy water officially went into operation on Saturday, despite U.N. demands that Tehran stop the activity because it can be used to develop a nuclear bomb. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the plant, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

The announcement comes days before Thursday’s U.N. deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment — which also can be used to create nuclear weapons — or face economic and political sanctions. Tehran has called the
U.N. Security Council resolution “illegal” and said it won’t stop enrichment as a precondition to negotiations.

Theoretically, such a flouting of UN Security Council demands would have consequences. Barring Israel acting alone, unlikely given that they’re otherwise occupied at the moment, there will be none. Indeed, aside from sanctions that will be impossible to enforce, the international community has few good options here.

FILED UNDER: United Nations, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Stevely says:

    I’m sure this is a case of Iran merely pointing its finger at us…

  2. Brian J. says:

    Looks like a honey pot to me.

  3. Tano says:

    Hello? A uranium enrichment plant? Do you not think it would be a good thing to learn the basics about a subject that you report on?

    They are opening a facility to produce heavy water, not to enrich uranium. Duh…
    The heavy water can then be used in a heavy-water reactor – one that does not require the enrichment of uranium to operate. This could actually be a good thing, since it gives Iran the capacity to use uranium for peaceful purposes without any need to develop enrichment cabailities.

  4. Triumph says:

    Theoretically, such a flouting of UN Security Council demands would have consequences.

    What are you talking about? As John Bolton said, the UN is irrelevant. Countries flout the Security COuncil all of the time. Why would we expect Iran to comply?

  5. Deskmerc says:

    Tano is indeed correct. The article only talks about a heavy water production plant, which you can use in a reactor as a moderator. D20 as a moderator allows you to burn natural uranium as fuel, and you don’t need to enrich anything. What this has to do with uranium enrichment, I’m not certain.

  6. Bill Faith says:

    Ed Morrissey has a pretty good explanation here of what this has to do with nuclear weapons. As I said here:

    I really don’t see an unsolvable problem here. Step 1 is for George Bush to grow a pair. Step 2 is even more obvious. So, what are we waiting for?

  7. Cernig says:

    Heavy water allows the use of natural non-enriched uranium to fuel a reactor, such as the ones Canada (the worlds largest producer of heavy water) have.

    To my knowledge, Canada doesn’t have nukes. Nor is anyone suggesting bombing it’s plants.

    That plutonium can be used to make a bomb, true, but it can also be used to fuel further reactors, thus cutting any reliance on uranium enrichment or foreign supplies of uranium. That’s why Japan uses that type of reactor. Japan has the world’s largest stockpiles of plutonium.

    To my knowledge, Japan doesn’t have nukes. Nor is anyone suggesting bombing it’s plants.

    It’s fairly plain that this doesn’t put any kind of “stake in the heart of the argument that Iran only wants peaceful nuclear energy”, no matter what the neocon Heritage Foundation’s blogger, Captain Ed, may want us to think. If it does, then it puts the same stake in the Canadian and Japanese programs too.

    Furthermore, the NPT allows the production of heavy water to use in civilian plutonium reactors to any NPT member.

    India, Pakistan and Israel also use heavy water reactors to produce more plutonium for nukes. None is a member of the NPT. All have nukes. No-one is suggesting bombing their plants.

    More scary stories from the ultra-right. They are the true traitors. They have become a greater threat to the stability and security of the West than any terror group or “rogue state”. Three failed adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon have created more instability than they were ever supposed to solve and now they want us to have another disasterous war. Meanwhile, their fearmongering at home in pursuit of their waning political power is an attempt to undermine what makes the West free and liberty-loving…a refusal to be ruled by fear.

    Regards, Cernig

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    Cernig, the problem is that neither Japan nor Canada have hidden their nuclear development programs nor have they supported terrorists, insurgent groups, or whatever we’re calling Hezbollah now.

    The IAEA has not certified that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons (I’m not claiming you said that—I’m just tossing it in). What they have certified is that Iran has not lived up to its obligations under the NPT.

    My own view is that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that Iran is developing nuclear weapons but, similarly, the preponderance of the evidence suggests that Iran is deterrable. As to whether they’d supply nuclear weapons to Hezbollah or other non-deterrables is disputed.

  9. Cernig says:

    Hi Dave,

    You’re not being quite accurate. The IAEA hasn’t certified a breach of the NPT and there is no evidence the IAEA recognizes that shows Iran even “probably” has a weapons program.

    The Iranians didn’t live up to their NPT obligations by keeping things secret so long. That’s a bad thing, agreed – but then again John Bolton says India, Pakistan and Israel are OK because they kept their programs secret but didn’t join the NPT, therefore it didn’t infringe the NPT. Lawyerspeak. Split that hair any way you choose to…

    From the discovery of the program until last week when the Iranians stopped IAEA access to their enrichment facility they have complied entirely with the NPT. What they haven’t complied with was the additional voluntary protocols Iran entered into in negotions with the EU3, not legally part of the NPT at all, which they always said were contingent on the EU3 acting in good faith – and which the EU3 broke first by allowing the US to be behind-the-scenes organ-grinder to their dancing monkeys.

    So we’re talking one inspection violation in how many years? (Incidentally, did you know that the US has NO inspection arrangements with the IAEA – not one inspection?) That’s a reason to bomb?

    Let’s put something in perspective. From El Baradei’s statement to the IAEA in June:

    In 2005, the Agency implemented comprehensive safeguards agreements in 147 States – 70 of which also had additional protocols in force or otherwise applied. For 24 of these 70 States, the Agency was able to conclude – having found no indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material, and no indication of undeclared nuclear material or activities – that all nuclear material remained in peaceful activities.

    Only 24 out of 70! Are we to bomb 46 nations then?

    Regards, Cernig

  10. Gambling that Iran simply wants heavy water production for a heavy water plant to further nuclear power generation is more than naiive, it borders on willfully negligent.

    Pakistan and North Korea both preferred the heavy water enrichment process for its more powerful (and efficient) plutonium byproduct. However, both shelved the idea as building a heavy water plant cannot be done under the proliferation radar nor can it be done as under the guise of seeking “peaceful nuclear power.”

    This is precisely why both shelved them in preference of the deniability (peaceful nuclear power) that light water enrichment affords.

    Both Pakistan and North Korea, at the time of their undertakings, were reliant on massive US aid dollars that they chose not to jeopardize with such an obvious nuclear weapons path (heavy water construction & plutonium).

    The similarities in paths, public denials under the guise of ‘peaceful nuclear power’ and respective timelines between the Pakistani and the Iranian programs’ development is both uncanny and not an accident. Pakistan perfected both the international rhetorical model and the physical model. A.Q. Kahn, anyone?

    Bear in mind that the successful Pakistani rhetorical model was employed while maintaining more than significant US aid dollars throughout…even after they had attained the weapon. It was only after they had tested it that the US cut off aid, embarrassingly enough (aiding Pak while the Soviets were in Afghanistan during the Cold War was not an insignificant priority).

    But this is precisely where the Iranian and Pakistani models diverge: Reliance on US aid money.

    Iran receives no US aid to lose, as the Pakistanis stood to. And, guaging by Russia’s decision (and the EU’s Javier Solana) to try and re-spark new rounds of talks (about nothing, as Iran’s enrichment is an “inalienable right” and ceasing it “not on our agenda”), there is no united approach to Iran’s program and thus no fear of punative sanctions.

    So why halt the heavy water production plant with its convenient plutonium byprduct?

    Splitting hairs in great detail over what the particular facility Ahmadinejad visited does or does not do (and attempting to berate the author for not being a nuclear physicist) evades the more basic question:

    Do you honestly believe that the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism pours massive amounts of national treasure to provide its citizens with a new source of electricity?

    I am not asking what should be done about Iran’s program, if anything at all.

    Simply asking, do those of you dissenting truly believe what you are suggesting here?

    Don’t answer me. Answer yourselves.


  11. Cernig,

    A very fair observation of legal hairsplitting.

    The entire tapdance around the NonProliferation Treaty is laughable.

    How can Iran not be deemed in violation of the NPT – in either principle or binding legal code – when the vast swaths of their nuclear program by their own admission were built upon illegally proliferated hardware and scientific information acquired from AQ Kahn’s global nuclear proliferation network?

    The value of the NPT can only be measured in intent. A signature on a piece of paper is only as valuable as the human emotion of trust allows it to be perceived.

    However, actions are more readily measured.

    We suspect they are disingenuous, but we know what they have done.

    That Iran employed Khan and his network in secrecy to proliferate technology and equipment for their program makes any reference to the NPT by either side laughable.

    Further, numerous leaders in Iran have stated point blank that they intend to proliferate their advances to all Muslim nations (not all nations mind you).

    NPT. Just paper.


  12. Cernig says:


    You write building a heavy water plant cannot be done…under the guise of seeking “peaceful nuclear power.”

    Simply false.

    Canada is the world’s largest producer of heavy water – mostly for export. Argentina is a major producer and has no nuclear power plants – its purely a commercial venture.

    Then you write Do you honestly believe that the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism pours massive amounts of national treasure to provide its citizens with a new source of electricity?

    I don’t know – why would the world’s fourth largets oil producer want to sell its oil for revenue rather than burn it at home?

    The UK could have been self-sufficient in oil from the North Sea for the last 3 decades but still has nuclear power plants – I wonder why?

    Is there an economist in the house?


    Regards, Cernig

  13. Herb says:

    I guess it takes a brick to the side of the head to get some people to realize that “Iran is a Terrorist State”.

    We see some who provide “Excuses”, for Iran,to cover up their pacifist agendas that has little regard for those whom it endangers. These “excuse people” remind one of Neville Chamberlain just prior to WW11 and those in the US who paid little attention and thought Hitler was “No Threat”. That “excuse adventure” cost the world 50 million dead and many countries to be totally devastated.

    As for their folly, they aid and abet our enemies but are just to damned stupid to know it. They only think of themselves and have little regards for anyone else. Somehow the sane people in this country must disregard what they say and continue to recognize the dangers that face us.

    Are they “Traitors”? Well, as I have said before, “If the shoe fits”.