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November 11, 2014 5:38 pm

Former IAEA Deputy Chief Warns Iran Has More Advanced Centrifuges Than Officially Declared

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Former IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen has warned that Iran may have several thousand more IR2m centrifuges than it has declared. Photo: Wikicommons

With just under a fortnight remaining before the deadline for a final November 24 agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, a veteran nuclear inspector is warning that the absence of robust verification measures could result in a much faster breakout time for achieving a nuclear weapon.

Dr. Olli Heinonen, a former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who spent a total of 27 years with the international organization, was addressing a conference call organized by The Israel Project.

Heinonen was speaking one day after the  Sunday Times of London reported his dramatic independent assessment of Iran’s nuclear capacity, specifically that Iran could have up to 5,000 IR-2m centrifuges, rather than the 1,008 it has claimed. The IR-2m devices are up to five times more effective in enriching uranium than older IR-1 types, the Sunday Times said.

In today’s remarks, Heinonen explained that with just 1,000 IR-2m centrifuges, Iran could enrich enough natural uranium to make a weapon in just one year. Were the Iranians to use their stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, the same number of centrifuges could produce the same result in six months. The addition of more centrifuges would simply speed up this process.

In a recently published report on the Iranian nuclear program for the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think-tank, Heinonen pointed out that the issue of centrifuges has become “the main unit of currency” in discussions over curbing Iran’s capacity.

In that same report, Heinonen said: “It should be stated categorically that limiting Iran’s centrifuge program to between 2,000 and 4,000 IR-1 centrifuges is consistent with Iran’s actual needs for enriched uranium for many years. Even 2,000 IR-1 centrifuges would provide Iran with sufficient enriched uranium for its existing and foreseen research reactor needs.” Speaking to the Sunday Times, Heinonen stressed that “it is important to have in this verification scheme an agreement that the IAEA can also verify all the centrifuges… when I say all, I mean all the things that have been manufactured there — whether it’s in a warehouse, whether it’s in storage, whether it’s installed somewhere else.”

Heinonen emphasized that time remains on Iran’s side, given its historic non-compliance with the IAEA and the absence of any comprehensive, verifiable account of its nuclear program. “Iran has talked a lot about transparency,” Heinonen said. “But the transparency measures need to be legally binding, so that the international community can act, and therefore it should be done through a UN Security Council resolution.”

Heinonen argued that there should be “a complete declaration by Iran on its past and current nuclear program” as the first step in implementing any final agreement.

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