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'Green Salt Project': Iran Admits Another Nuclear Deception

Iran has provided the IAEA with documents on a program they had denied existed only two months ago - after the US released intelligence to the IAEA. With the IAEA Board of Governors meeting rapidly approaching, Iran now appears to be making typical gestures of ‘coming clean’. This time, it’s the ‘Green Salt Project’ back in the news, with Iran now producing documents on that very program. The ‘Green Salt Program’ was first made public in late 2005 when US intelligence began divulging some details of the kinds of nuclear information that was present on a laptop produced from Iran.

Exactly what information Iran provided to the IAEA today on their ‘Green Salt Project’ is not known. What is known is that when the question of a ‘Green Salt Project’ was first posed to Iran by the IAEA, Iran called the accusations baseless. And as they’ve done with prior ‘accusations’ - we now learn that this too was Iranian deception.

It was expected that the subject would be a topic of focus for El Baredei’s full report to be delivered at the March 6 meeting on Iran’s nuclear program. It was mentioned in the January 31, 2006 IAEA Update Brief that El Baredei had prepared for the Security Council in lieu of a full report.

On 5 December 2005, the Agency reiterated its request for a meeting to discuss information that had been made available to the Agency about alleged undeclared studies, known as the Green Salt Project, concerning the conversion of uranium dioxide into UF4 (“green salt”), as well as tests related to high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could have a military nuclear dimension and which appear to have administrative interconnections. On 16 December 2005, Iran replied that the “issues related to baseless allegations.” Iran agreed on 23 January 2006 to a meeting with the DDG-SG for the clarification of the Green Salt Project, but declined to address the other topics during that meeting. In the course of the meeting, which took place on 27 January 2006, the Agency presented for Iran’s review a copy of a process flow diagram related to bench scale conversion and communications related to the project. Iran reiterated that all national nuclear projects are conducted by the AEOI, that the allegations were baseless and that it would provide further clarifications later.

Consider Iran’s latest move nothing more than a pre-emptive strike. They have had ample time now to massage the information, including the preparation of any facilities to match what they are providing should any inspections be eventually demanded by the Security Council and agreed to by Iran.

Once again, the secretive and deceptive nature of Iran’s ‘peaceful nuclear energy program’ contradicts this persistent claim.

‘Green Salt’ is a term given to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), which is a mid-point state of uranium in the process of converting uranium ore into the UF6 uranium fuel used in nuclear plants or, alternatively, further enriched for weapons-grade uranium. Essentially, it is a section of the fuel cycle that Iran has not divulged until now, days before the IAEA meeting that will ultimately condemn them before the United Nations Security Council formally takes up the Iranian nuclear crisis.

On the heels of this important and self-revelatory Iranian news, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer urged the United States to join the European Union in Iran negotiations. “It would be really helpful if the United States could join. We have an important opportunity to solve this if we work together. Europe is not strong enough.”

The Bush Administration spoke through US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, who said nothing needs to change now with the Security Council’s involvement just days away. “We are comfortable with the approach we have taken.”

Fischer’s request borders on the comical, as there are no Iranians at the table for the European Union to negotiate with. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said from Brussels earlier this week, “Our contacts with the European Union will no longer be held with the EU-3, but with the different countries of the European Union.” Iran wants less, not more.

They may experience much less soon (in the form of sanctions) if the UN Security Council does the unexpected and resists its traditional urge to flounder, delay and prolong the process to the point that it’s eventual resolutions are nearly ineffectual. With Russia’s nuclear construction contracts and China’s recent massive oil and gas agreements with Tehran, effectiveness may have an outside chance at best, regardless of proven Iranian deception.

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Actually, UF6 is still a midpoint in the process... It can exist in solid, liquid, or gaseous states, at easily achievable temperatures and pressures. In the gaseous state it is processed by a diffusion process to separate the enriched from the depleted fractions. The enriched fraction is further processed to convert it to (usually) Uranium Oxide for reactor fuel, or Elemental Uranium metal for use as something more sinister. And, of course, the degree of enrichment plays a part in just how sinister the use might be.

UF6 is an extremely useful chemical form of Uranium for processing and storage, but its chemical characteristics make it very difficult to use in energy production processes ... it is highly reactive to air and water.

Just my $.02

DRK

You are absolutely right. I am glad you noted that. I should know better than to make such a fundamental error in haste.

For those interested, the World Nuclear Association has a quick overview chart here:

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Many thanks, Dave. Worth more than two cents!