Analysis of the IAEA Verification and Monitoring Report on Iran – May 2022

Analysis of the IAEA Verification and Monitoring Report on Iran – May 2022

by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard and Andrea Stricker [1]

June 6, 2022

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This report summarizes and assesses the information contained in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Quarterly Safeguards Report for May 30, 2022, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), including Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The latest IAEA report details the rapid progress of Iran’s nuclear activities and the reduced ability of inspectors to detect the diversion of Iranian assets to undeclared facilities.

Breakdown Highlights and Estimate

  • Due to the growth of Iran’s stockpile of 60% enriched uranium, Iran has crossed a dangerous new threshold: its escape timeline is now at zero. It has enough 60% enriched uranium, or highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to be sure that it could directly shape a nuclear explosive. If Iran wanted to further enrich its 60% HEU to 90% HEU, usually referred to as weapons-grade uranium (WGU), used in Iran’s known nuclear weapons designs, it could do so. in weeks using just a few advanced centrifuge cascades. Meanwhile, within a month, including a preparation period, Iran could produce enough WGU for a second nuclear explosive from its existing stockpile of nearly 20% enriched uranium. Whether or not Iran enriches its HEU up to 90%, it may have enough HEU for two nuclear weapons within a month of the start of the breakout.
  • Within a month and a half of the start of the breakout, Iran could accumulate enough WGU for a third nuclear weapon, using its leftover uranium enriched to almost 20% and some of its uranium enriched at 4.5%. In 2.75 months from the start of the breakout, he could have a fourth quantity by enriching another 4.5% enriched uranium to 90%. After six months, it could have produced a fifth quantity by further enriching both 4.5% enriched uranium and natural uranium.
  • Essentially, Iran effectively broke out slowly accumulating 60% enriched uranium. As of May 15, Iran had a stockpile of 43.1 kilograms (kg) (by mass of uranium or mass of U) of nearly 60% enriched uranium in the form of UF6, or 63.8 kg (by mass of hexafluoride or by hexagonal mass). Iran also has 2 kg of 60% HEU in chemical forms other than UF6.
  • Iran has moved 90% of its stock of 60% HEU to the Isfahan site, where it retains an enriched uranium metal manufacturing capacity. Although Iran has said it uses HEU to make targets for irradiation at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), it has only converted a small fraction of its HEU into targets – about 2.1 kg – and it is unlikely to convert many more.
  • Iran’s current production rate of 60% enriched uranium is 4.3 kg per month (mass U) using two advanced centrifuge cascades and up to 5% low-enriched uranium (LEU) as feed.
  • Iran is learning important lessons from its transition to nuclear weapons, including experimenting with skipping typical enrichment stages when it enriches up to 60% uranium-235 and building and testing equipment to supply 20% enriched uranium and remove the HEU. It starts from a level of less than 5% LEU and enriches itself directly to almost 60% in a cascade, rather than using two intermediate stages, a slower process involving the intermediate production of uranium enriched to 20 %. It used temporary feed-and-take facilities to produce HEU from a nearly 20% enriched uranium feed. Iran is also implementing a plan to allow the IR-6 cascades to more easily transition from producing 5% enriched uranium to 20% enriched uranium. As such, Iran is experimenting with multi-stage enrichment while seeking to shorten the process.
  • Iran does not currently enrich uranium to 20% in a cascade of IR-6 centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), a cascade that was active in previous reporting periods. Iran has installed a second cascade of 166 IR-6 centrifuges at FFEP, but has still not supplied it with UF6. It also has six IR-1 cascades (three sets of two interconnected cascades) that were already producing 20% ​​enriched uranium. The installation of advanced centrifuges at the FFEP enhances Iran’s ability to escape using a declared but highly fortified facility.
  • The production rate of 20% enriched uranium at FFEP remained fairly stable at 19.9 kg (U mass) per month or 29.4 kg (hexadecimal mass) per month.
  • As of May 15, Iran had an IAEA-estimated stockpile of 238.4 kg of 20% enriched uranium (mass of U and as UF6), an increase from the 182.1 kg of the previous period. Iran also has an additional stockpile of 35.9 kg (mass U) of 20% uranium in other chemical forms.
  • As for the previous period, Iran did not produce uranium metal.
  • At the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), Iran has installed 36 IR-1 centrifuge cascades, six IR-2m centrifuge cascades and two IR-4 centrifuge cascades. Of these, 31 IR-1 cascades, six IR-2m cascades and one IR-4 cascade were fed with uranium. A third IR-4 cascade was being installed.
  • Iran’s current total operational enrichment capability is estimated at around 12,600 Separation Work Units (SWUs) per year, up from 13,400 SWUs per year at the end of the last reporting period.
  • Average daily production of 5% LEU remained stable at PFEP, but Iran’s total usable stock of less than 5% LEU continued to decline, due to the increased rate of its use as feedstock at PFEP and at the FFEP.
  • Iran’s reported global LEU stockpile has increased due to a significant increase in Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched up to 2%, much of which was produced as tailings in uranium production enriched at 20% and 60%.
  • In its latest report, the IAEA states that “by the end of March 2022, the Agency has replaced all JCPOA-related camera storage media,” including those in new or new centrifuge manufacturing and assembly facilities. temporary from Iran. The IAEA will not have access to the video recordings and data, which Iran claims to have in its custody, until it receives a lifting of sanctions. The IAEA, for more than a year, has been unable to monitor Iran’s production of advanced centrifuges, especially rotors and bellows, in accordance with the JCPOA monitoring provisions, and faces a difficult challenge. in the reconstruction of events if Iran handed over this data.
  • The IAEA also faces a lack of knowledge about Iran’s advanced centrifuge manufacturing activities from June 2021 to January 2022, raising doubts about its ability to determine whether Iran may have diverted components from centrifuges.
  • Combined with Iran’s refusal to resolve outstanding safeguards violations, the IAEA has a significantly reduced ability to monitor Iran’s complex and growing nuclear program, which notably has unresolved nuclear weapon dimensions. The IAEA’s ability to detect the diversion of nuclear materials, equipment and other capabilities to undeclared facilities remains significantly reduced.

Read the full report here.

Andrea Stricker is Deputy Director and Research Fellow in the Non-Proliferation and Biodefense Program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). ↩

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