In a recent article on AntiWar.com by Muhammad Sahimi an apparent information leakage of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and David Albright’s Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) was linked to Olli Heinonen, IAEA’s deputy director for safeguards. Albright’s analysis of the February 19 IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program has led to much speculation. In the original IAEA report it was stated that Iran does not possess so far any uranium with an enrichment level suitable for use in nuclear weapons. ISIS, on the other hand, speculated that ‘breakout capability’ has been achieved already. Such speculations in a more and more confused public may in fact lead to irresponsible responses. There was, for a couple of days, even evidence that the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and both his Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair would disagree over the issue whether Iran has exceeded the limits or not.
A further analysis of the latest IAEA report with a clear statement on Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon was done earlier this month by R. Scott Kemp and Alexander Glaser at Princeton University who concluded that “[u]nless Iran makes significant modifications to its centrifuge cascades, the claims being made overestimate the amount of weapon-usable uranium that could be produced from Iran’s low-enriched uranium stocks by a factor of three.” They estimate that it would take Iran roughly a year to make a “significant quantity” of weapon-grade uranium and that a more realistic estimate is three years”. In contrast, ISIS assumes when criticizing the statement that Iran is most probably running further, covert, uranium enrichment facilities in addition to the well-known Natanz plant. But that would make any reliable estimates impossible. They are mere speculations and should be regarded as such. So far, there is no evidence for this assumption. As a matter of fact, a respective discovery would most likely lead to an immediate attack by Israel and possibly the US. Scott and Glaser point to that but when reading both their response and Albright’s comment on their original paper, one might ask, whose opinions will finally prevail in the public?
Peer review is essential on such a sensitive issue but some reviewers (in fact opinion leaders) are frequently heavily biased, which has especially become true in case of the respected David Albright.
See also on this blog
No New Concern? The February 19, 2009 IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program.
Shut Down for Maintenance. ISIS on Iran’s uranium hexafluoride conversion.
Not Inevitable. ISIS’s reasoning on Iran’s nuclear program.
In a Timely Manner. ISIS report on Iran’s nuclear program during the presidential transition period.