The AP had a story out a few days ago discussing the Iranian enrichment progran’s apparent lack of progress. It was cited in the Nelson Report a couple of days ago (an excerpt from which can be found here.)
I am also under the impression that Iran’s centrifuge program is progressing slowly. But I have to take issue with the AP’s interpretation of an item that appeared in the Iranian press:
Other signs point to technical difficulties at Iran’s nuclear facilities. Earlier this month, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told reporters that about 50 centrifuges had exploded during a test.
“We had installed 50 centrifuges. One night, I was informed that all the 50 centrifuges had exploded. ... Ahmadinejad called me and said: ‘Build these machines even if they explode 10 times more,’” Aghazadeh was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
The problem is that the centrifuges exploded last spring. And that event is mentioned as part of a larger discussion which clearly characterizes the enrichment program as advancing rapidly.
Here’s what the report, which appeared in Ayande-ye Now 6 January, said:
The president’s deputy then mentioned the doubts of some of the order’s authorities about Iran’s ability to put the Natanz plant into operation and said: “In Bahman 1384 [February 2006], after the meeting of the heads of the three powers, we broke the suspension; in that meeting, they doubtfully said that we cannot put the chain of 164 centrifuges into operation until the next year.
In the beginning of Esfand [March] of the same year, we received the permission to put the chain of centrifuges into operation and in Farvardin 1385 [April 2006], we achieved enriched uranium.” Aqazadeh then said: “During those days, once they called me at two o’clock in the morning and said that all the 50 centrifuges have exploded because the ‘UPS’ [uninterruptible power supply] in charge of controlling the electricity had not acted properly. Later we found out that the ‘UPS’ that we had imported through Turkey had been manipulated; and after this incident, we checked all the imported instruments before using them.”
He then added: “In Farvardin of the current year [April 2006], we put all the chain into operation, but we could not achieve the three and a half per cent enriched uranium product. I travelled to Mashhad, and I begged Imam Reza (peace be upon him); I was very upset. Mr Ahmadinezhad called me and I told him that we have had no result. He said: ‘Even if everything goes wrong ten times, do not worry, do it again.’ The same night they called me from Natanz and told me that they had reached a two and a half per cent enriched product.” The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization mentioned the achievement of four per cent enriched uranium product…[paragraph breaks inserted]
The part about the imported UPS having been “manipulated” is interesting…have some people been sabotaging their exports to Iran?