On Wednesday Secretary of State John Kerry and the Iranian foreign minister met to look for ways to accelerate the nuclear talks to ensure the March deadline for an agreement framework is met. The meeting occurred almost immediately after Iran announced it’s increasing nuclear capacity by building two new plants. But according to the State Department, the supposed “freeze” which led to U.S.-Iranian talks not only allows Iran to build additional nuclear plants but also frees that nation to enrich more uranium.
The Iranian government controlled Fars News Agency reported the two new “power plants.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Tuesday that the country has started building two new nuclear power plants in the Southern province of Bushehr to increase nuclear-generated power output of the country.
“Construction of two new power plants will increase the capacity of Bushehr province’s power generation to 2,000 megawatts,” President Rouhani said in a meeting with investors and economic activists in Bushehr province today. Earlier today, President Rouhani underlined during a visit to the Bushehr nuclear power plant that Iran is pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and said, “The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant is an example showing that Iran is only looking for a civilian use of the nuclear energy and for power generation.”
The Iranians always say they are building new nuclear infrastructure for peaceful means, but in actuality they use it as a pretext for expanding their nuclear stockpile. And it seems that might be the case with the latest power plants. The Xinhuanet News Agency (China) reported late last week:
Iran’s atomic chief said on Sunday that Iran must increase its uranium enrichment capacity to 30 tons per year to meet the fuel needs of its Bushehr nuclear power plant, according to Tasnim news agency. Iran is now enriching two and a half tons of uranium per year, while the minimum need is estimated at 30 tons a year, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, said, adding that the West, however, does not agree on that amount.
Understand that historically whenever Iran increases its nuclear infrastructure, they move closer to building a bomb, for example they are building new generators and using it as an excuse to enrich more uranium.
But according to the Washington Free Beacon, the U.S. is OK with the new construction:
“We are aware of the announcement and are reviewing the details,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on record. However, “in general, the construction of light water nuclear reactors is not prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions, nor does it violate the JPOA, [Joint Plan of Action]” the official said.
The United States remains committed to ensuring the “peaceful” nature of Iran’s nuclear program, which continues to progress in part as talks continue through July 1.
We have been clear in saying that the purpose of the negotiations with Iran is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains exclusively for civilian, peaceful purposes,” the official said. “The talks that we have been engaged in for months involve a specific set of issues relative to closing off all possible pathways to Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb. That remains our focus.
We were told the JPOA between the countries was supposed to freeze the Iranian program to prevent them from improving their position or getting closer to “the bomb” as talks proceeded. But we were lied to. The actual agreement allows Iran to do both.
- Uranium — The JPOA allows unlimited enrichment from 0% to 3.5%, which is about 60% of the effort needed to get to weapons grade levels. Every day they’ve got 9,000 centrifuges spilling and building up their stockpile. The only caveat is they have to convert the newly enriched gas into oxide, a process that would take them a couple of weeks to reverse.
- Plutonium — The JPOA allows unlimited work on Iran’s Arak plutonium factory as long as the Iranians don’t touch the reactor at the site, and unlimited work on reactor parts off-site.
- Ballistic missiles — The JPOA allows unlimited work on ballistic missiles.
- Physical infrastructure — The JPOA allows allowed unlimited construction of full-blown nuclear reactors.
Iran’s basic argument for maintaining and expanding its nuclear enrichment capacity is the need to create fuel for reactors. But just like almost every other country in the world, they can get fuel from overseas. Also it seems impossible to reconcile the new construction with what we were told, the Iranian program was “frozen.” That is not only what the President told us, but also it is the administration’s big claim as it fights against new Congressional sanctions against Iran. Instead of tying to baffle Congress and voters with likes and half-truths, perhaps its time for the administration to slow down negotiations and think about what is the best way to keep this country safe.
Cross-posted at The Lid