Friday, November 16, 2007

Dishonest Reporting And Iran's Centrifuges

By Cernig

There's some seriously dishonest and/or lazy reporting going on in the Western media about Iran's nuclear program and the IAEA report yesterday.

Most outlets are identical in the ledes - like a bunch of schoolkids all copying over each other's shoulders. Just about every article begins like this one in Murdoch's London Times which runs under the headline "Iran could build atom bomb within one year, says nuclear watchdog":
Iran has expanded its capacity to enrich uranium and now has 3,000 centrifuges operating — enough potentially to produce an atom bomb within a year — the United Nations nuclear watchdog reported yesterday.
Ditto the rather more left-wing Guardian:
Iran has installed 3,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium - enough to begin industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel and build a warhead within a year, the UN's nuclear watchdog reported last night.
And the WaPo:
The IAEA's report also confirmed that Iran has 3,000 centrifuges in operation, which is the minimum needed to enrich a significant amount of uranium and represents a tenfold increase over last year.
Every single one gives the implicit impression that it is the IAEA itself which has warned Iran could suddenly produce a nuke in a years time.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The report mentions nothing whatsover about a timeline to produce enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon - unsurprising since the report does say that Iran has only managed low-level enrichment barely adequate for reactor fuel so far, and that the 3,000 centrifuges are running way below capacity. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis and others have calculated 20% efficiency and suggest problems with contaminated feedstock - which means multiplying that timeline by five!

What the report does say is that all of the enriched uranium produced to date "remains under Agency containment and surveillance" and that the centrifuge cascades themselves are subjected to an annual audit by the IAEA and surpise inspections - seven have been carried out since March.

That means - it is impossible for Iran to use these 3,000 centrifuges and their product to secretly make a nuclear weapon.

You'd think honest reporters might actually mention that.

Update China has pulled out of the latest meeting to discuss tougher sanctions against Tehran.

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