Thursday, February 14, 2013

The BBC Spins the Truth on Iran's New Centrifuges

The BBC published an impressive piece of scaremongering disinformation on February 13. In an article entitled, “Iran upgrades uranium enrichment despite US warning,” the news outlet reports that new, upgraded uranium enrichment centrifuges are now being installed at Iran’s primary enrichment facility in Natanz.

The report states that Iran itself announced the upgrade to the IAEA back on January 23 and quotes the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, as saying, “We have produced the machines as planned and we are carrying out the installation gradually... to complete the tests relevant to the new generation.”

The BBC ominously notes, “Monitors say the new machines could significantly reduce the time needed to make a nuclear bomb” and reveals that this routine and much-needed technological advancement of an consistently monitored and safeguarded nuclear program has been referred to by the U.S. government as an “escalation.”

Yet this assessment is not only deceivingly broad, it deliberately omits readily available information that would undercut such unnecessary alarmism.

First, as Reuters reported on February 13 – but the BBC curiously didn’t – AEO chief Abbasi-Davani affirmed that the newly installed centrifuges “were specifically for lower-grade enrichment of uranium to below 5 percent purity.” In other words, these upgraded and more efficient machines cannot, by design and configuration, produce weapons-grade nuclear material. Rather, the level to which they will enrich uranium is well below the nearly 20% enrichment level used for cancer treatment and far from the over 90% required for a nuclear warhead.

Iran is well within its rights to upgrade its infrastructure; in fact, it would be irresponsible and absurd for it not to.  As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted on January 31, “We were told by the IAEA that [the Iranians] will install next generation centrifuges. However, [Iran] is doing everything in line with their commitments under the Safeguards Agreement.”

Further, as the Christian Science Monitor explained last month after the upgrade to the Natanz facility was first announced, most of the enrichment technology currently used by Iran “is from the 1970s, and Iran has had difficulty in getting the centrifuges to run properly, perhaps in part due to the sabotaging effects of the Stuxnet computer worm thought to have been introduced into the plant by the US and Israel.” That said, the new centrifuges - only one generation newer than those currently installed and spinning - are not state-of-the-art by any stretch. The technology they employ is still only from the 1980s, if that.

Second generation centrifuges manufactured domestically by Iran is also not startling news.  As far back as February 2008 - yes, five years ago - there were reports of Iran installing new, advanced centrifuges (known as IR-2) at Natanz. Similar reports followed in 2010 and 2011.

Another factor left out of the BBC report is that Iran has also been actively converting quantities of its 20% enriched uranium into fuel plates for use in the Tehran Research Reactor – another IAEA safeguarded site – thereby reducing its amount of stockpiled material and precludes the possibility of potentially further enriching such material to higher, weapons-grade levels in the future.

By claiming only that the new centrifuges Iran is installing at Natanz “could significantly reduce the time needed to make a nuclear bomb,” the BBC is feeding unfounded fears while deliberately downplaying facts. That Iran’s nuclear program is anything but nefarious and clandestine still appears to be an unfathomable and inadmissible conclusion in the Western media.



March 3, 2013 - A Reuters news alert early today states that, according to Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Iran will soon be "producing 3,000 new-generation centrifuges."

"The final production line of these centrifuges has reached an end and soon the early generations of these centrifuges with low efficiency will be set aside," Abbasi-Davani said, according to the Fars news agency.

Despite the alarmist commentary that such an announcement will surely "add to Western concerns about the Islamic state's disputed nuclear programme," the plain fact is that this is neither alarming nor illegal. Iran, as mentioned above, has been transparent about its plans to increase the efficiency of its nuclear infrastructure under the supervision of the IAEA.

Literally, the only bit of news in this report is that the announcement "appeared to be the first time a specific figure had been given," says Reuters.

Specific figure, ahhhh!

In an updated, lengthier article published three hours after its initial report, Reuters explains, "An IAEA note informing member states in January about Iran's plans implied Iran could install up to 3,000 or so of the new centrifuges," adding, "Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses, but their introduction for full-scale production has been dogged by delays and technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say."

So, Iran is doing exactly what it said it was going to do, ahhhhhhhhh!

The silliness continues.


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