The Obama administration remains committed to its strategy of negotiation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Public pronouncements and administration proxies continue to argue that the administration would rather have no deal than a bad deal, and that concerns are unwarranted regarding loopholes that might allow Iran to acquire a nuclear breakout capability let alone an actual nuclear breakout.
Alas, it seems no one gave that message to the Islamic Republic, which seems intent on demonstrating just how far it can advance its program against the backdrop of Obama administration desperation to make a deal.
Hence, Asghar Zarean deputy head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, has this announcement, according to the Fars News Agency:
“The AEOI has acquired the technology for the production of different types of lasers, and there are more successes which will be declared soon,” Zarean said, addressing a number of Iranian officials during a tour of Iran’s nuclear installations in Fordo, Natanz and Isfahan. Stressing that the sanctions couldn’t undermine the country’s determination to make progress in using the civilian nuclear technology, he announced that the Iranian nuclear experts’ new achievements will be unveiled on April 9 (the National Nuclear Technology Day in Iran).
While the Iranians claim that their nuclear laser industry is for medical purposes, the program could have other applications. From Reuters:
A new way of making nuclear fuel with lasers may help cut costs and ensure energy security but could also make it easier for rogue states to secretly build nuclear weapons if they got hold of the know-how. A debate about the benefits and dangers of using lasers instead of centrifuges to enrich uranium underlines the sensitivities surrounding nuclear activity that can have both civilian and military applications.
Iran, whose underground centrifuge plants and history of hiding nuclear work from U.N. inspectors have raised Western suspicions of a covert atom bomb programme and prompted Israeli threats to attack Iranian nuclear sites, says it already has laser technology but experts doubt Tehran has mastered it.
Uranium can provide the explosive core of a nuclear warhead if refined to a high fissile concentration, explaining why any country or other actor interested in obtaining nuclear arms might be eager to learn about technical advances in enrichment.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last month issued a license to a partnership between General Electric Co. and Japan’s Hitachi Ltd to build and run a laser enrichment plant for manufacturing reactor fuel…. “It appears that they have allowed the license to go forward without a serious review of the proliferation implications,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy and research group.
It’s been more than two years since the Reuters article appeared that spoke about Iranian interest in laser enrichment, but which noted that most experts doubted Iranian scientists had achieved the capabilities former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed. However, if the Iranian government is being so cocky as to announce a major breakthrough on April 9, Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, then perhaps it’s time to question whether the United States and Iran share the same goals in their diplomacy. Perhaps Obama seeks to end 35 years of enmity and distrust, but increasingly it appears that Iranian officials are approaching the talks seeing in Obama weakness, and in his advisors naiveté.