Abbasi-Davani Interview on Iran’s 20 Percent Enrichment

August 31, 2011

In an interivew with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) published August 30, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, announced that Iran would never halt its domestic production of 20 percent enriched uranium. Agence France Presse reported on its apparent translation of the interview and added that Abbasi-Davani said Iran is no longer interested in a fuel swap deal and would rather become a supplier of 20 percent enriched uranium. IRNA reports on Abbasi-Davani’s fuel swap comments in a separate story. This latter statement would seem as though Abbasi-Davani wants to close the door on any prospect for a diplomatic deal that would remove 20 percent uranium from Iran for further fabrication into fuel elements for the TRR in a third party country. This effort could be important to build international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

Abbasi-Davani told IRNA that Iran has stockpiles of 20 percent material that “already exceed[s] the required amount for the TRR [Tehran Research Reactor].” He also said that Iran requires a growing stockpile in case “if in the process of production our system would be damaged, or would be in need of repairs…” This comment is ambiguous but would seem to imply either recognition of possible production problems or Iran’s continued concern about its enrichment facilities being bombed. Abbasi-Davani noted that Iran made the decision to move 20 percent enrichment to its fortified and once secret Fordow enrichment plant “because the enrichment facilities at Natanz were not safe…” and “security measures required that the sensitive part of the facilities would be transferred to underground buildings.” ISIS continues to assess that Iran has no logical need for large stockpiles of 20 percent enriched uranium and that having such a large stockpile on hand and located within a fortified structure is more suited toward planning for the contingency of a breakout to nuclear weapons.

Abbasi-Davani iterated that Iran will continue its planned expansion at Natanz and finish relocating all 20 percent enrichment at Fordow and added that Iran has no intentions or plans to enrich uranium beyond 20 percent. Abbasi-Davani told IRNA that during the recent visit of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director and Head of Safeguards Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA was “informed of the research done on production of the new generation of Iran’s centrifuges and the inspectors were familiarized with the activities and amount of progress in that respect.” The IAEA has yet to comment on the details of Nackaert’s visit but may provide more information in its upcoming safeguards report on Iran, which is currently planned for release on September 2.

Additionally, AFP quotes Abbasi-Davani as saying that Iran has no plans to build new enrichment sites during the next two years. This quote is not in the English version ISIS obtained and ISIS could not locate it in any other IRNA story. Iran does not provide the IAEA with advanced notice of construction plans for enrichment plants, so verifying such a claim is impossible.

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