December 3, 2007

Looking For Iranian Nukes? Try Reading The Pictures


Iran Technician Yellow-Cake

Geez, if we only had a few more nuclear scientists reading this blog…

What amazes me is not the fact that yesterday’s NIE report found that Iran stopped its nuke development in 2003, or that the U.S. government was aware of it for the past year, but that the information was discovered simply by looking at news photos.

According to USA Today:

For all of the effort spent trying to determine the scope of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it was a media visit to Iran that helped the intelligence community reconsider its assessment of the program, U.S. intelligence officials said Monday.

Photographs taken during the media visit this year weren’t decisive in determining when Iran stopped its nuclear program, said an officer who helped prepare a National Intelligence Estimate released Monday.

But the photos from Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility were reviewed by intelligence analysts who concluded Iran continues to face “significant technical problems” in using the facility to enrich uranium, the officer said.

Four intelligence officials spoke at a briefing on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of intelligence collection, said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Because I had trouble finding photos from Natanz in the corresponding time period (perhaps, for having been pulled?), the newswire images above show the Iranian uranium conversion facility in Isfahan.  (Could you just give me a little tighter shot of those gauges?)

It makes me shake my head to think that industrial pics like these — having been published over and over these past few years to bolster a(nother) doomsday threat in the Persian Gulf  — could so straight-forwardly prove the opposite.

(I specifically like the shot on the bottom left as the technician is looking at an International Atomic Energy Commission monitoring camera.)

(all images: Behrouz Mehri/AFP. Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facilities south of Tehran, Iran.  via YahooNews. image 1: undated.  image 2 (lower left):  2005.  image 3 (lower rt.): February 2007. Machines use yellow cake to produce Uranium hexafluoride (UF6).

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Michael Shaw
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