During President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility on 8 April, Iran released 48 photographs showing the country’s advancement in nuclear technology and providing the first significant look inside Natanz. New York Times’ William Broad in an article in today’s paper titled “A Tantalizing Look at Iran’s Nuclear Program” reports that the photos provided a wealth of information to Western analysts.
“They’re remarkable,” said Jeffrey G. Lewis, an arms control specialist at the New America Foundation. “We’re learning things.”
“This is intel to die for,” says Andreas Persbo, an analyst in London at the Verification Research, Training and Information Center. Persbo made the comments on the blog, Arms Control Wonk.
The analysts now believe that the Iranians have achieved new levels of technical skill. The case in point is the development of IR-2, a centrifuge that would produce about four times the enrichment.
“That’s a lot,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), told The Times.
Of the 48 photographs Iran released, Western analysts gave special scrutiny to one showing Ahmadinejad and his entourage inspecting a disassembled IR-2, its guts arrayed on the table, as the Times put it. Clearly visible are its casing, inner rotor, motor and several other critical parts (pictured above).
ISIS’s Albright said that in one year 1,200 flawlessly running IR-2 centrifuges could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon.
Houston G. Wood III, a centrifuge expert at the University of Virginia tells The New York Times that the episode smelled of “hubris.”
“It was amazing to me that they put the pictures out there,” Wood said. “It’s sort of a cocky thing. I would think they had more to gain by keeping their cards close to their chests.”