Missing Uranium in Iran
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that those monitoring Iran's nuclear program have discovered that 50-60 tons of "yellow cake" uranium have gone missing from the Esfahan uranium enrichment complex. Such quantities could be used to produce up to six atomic bombs:
By conducting a careful study of the amount of material stored at Isfahan, and the amount of "yellow cake" known to have been processed at the plant, nuclear experts believe between 50-60 tons of uranium - which if enriched to weapons grade level would be sufficient to produce five or six atom bombs - has gone missing from the plant.
IAEA officials believe the Iranians have deliberately removed the uranium at a stage in the production process that is not under their supervision. "The inspectors only have limited access at Isfahan, and it looks as though Iranian officials have removed significant quantities of UF6 at a stage in the process that is not being monitored," said a nuclear official. "If Iran's nuclear intentions are peaceful, then why are they doing this?" Nuclear inspectors have also been concerned to discover that Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, recently ordered scientists to increase the amount of UF6 being diverted from Isfahan to another storage facility.
IAEA officials have no idea where the missing uranium is being stored, but suspect it could be held at one of several suspicious installations that have been spotted by American spy satellites.The Iranians will be asked to give a full account of the missing enriched uranium when the IAEA's board of governors meets in Vienna later this month to discuss the continuing crisis over Iran's nuclear enrichment programme.
It will be interesting to see if IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei comments on the missing uranium when he delivers his latest report on Iran on Monday.
In related news, ElBaradei has announced that he will not seek another term as head of the IAEA and will leave his post in 2009. Perhaps Iran can unveil a nuclear weapon as a farewell gesture...