Monday, July 07, 2008

Iran has resumed A-bomb project -- western media

LONDON, July 7 (KUNA) -- Iran has resumed work on constructing highly sophisticated equipment that nuclear experts say is primarily used for building atomic weapons, according to the latest intelligence reports received by western diplomats Monday.

The work is aimed at developing the blueprint provided by Dr. AQ Khan, the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, who sold Iran details of how to build atom bombs in the early 1990s, The Daily Telegraph newspaper said.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which has overall responsibility for the country's nuclear programme, has set up several civilian companies to work on the programme whose activities are being deliberately concealed from the United Nations nuclear inspection teams. The companies, based on the outskirts of Tehran, are working on constructing components for the advanced "P2" gas centrifuge, which can enrich uranium to weapons grade two to three times faster than conventional "P1" centrifuges, the paper added.

Iran's controversial nuclear enrichment programme at Natanz, which Tehran insists is designed to produce fuel for nuclear power, runs on "P1" centrifuges. But Iranian nuclear scientists recently conducted successful tests on a prototype "P2" centrifuge at Natanz, and the Revolutionary Guard has now set up a network of companies to build components for the advanced centrifuges.

This has raised concerns among western experts that Iran is continuing work on its nuclear weapons programme, despite Tehran's claims that its intentions are peaceful. "If Iran's nuclear intentions were peaceful, there would be no need for it to undertake this work in secret," said an official familiar with the intelligence reports.

A previous clandestine attempt by Iran to develop "P2" centrifuges was halted in 2004 after the existence of a civilian company set up by the Revolutionary Guard was exposed.UN nuclear inspectors found traces of weapons-grade uranium at the company when they inspected the premises, the paper concluded.

What is a P-2 centrifuge and how has Iran modified it?
The P-2 centrifuge, deployed in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, is essentially the same design as one developed by Germany in the early 1970s and stolen by A.Q. Khan from Urenco, the uranium enrichment consortium of Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. The P-2 uranium enrichment throughput is about 2.5 times greater than the P-1 centrifuge. Where the P-1 in Pakistan achieved an annual enrichment output of about two separative work units (swu) annually, the P-2 has a capacity of about five swu annually.
The P-2 as modified by Iran is about one half the length of the P-2 and has no bellows, a difficult to make component. If configured appropriately, it would take approximately 1,200 P-2/IR-2 centrifuges to produce more than enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in one year, where it would take 3,000 P-1 centrifuges to produce a similar quantity.
The original P-2 uses a rotor tube made out of maraging steel and one bellows at the center of the tube. According to Iran’s declarations to the IAEA, Iranian experts decided that they could not make the P-2 bellows, which is thinner and more difficult to manufacture than the P-1 bellows. Iran therefore modified the design, using a single carbon fiber rotor and forgoing the maraging steel bellows.
A carbon fiber rotor can spin much faster than a maraging steel rotor (which in turn spins significantly faster than the aluminum rotor in the P-1). The extra speed of the carbon fiber rotor allows the shorter IR-2 centrifuge to have the same enrichment output as the P-2 centrifuge. Carbon fiber rotors are also less expensive to produce than tubes made of maraging steel.

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