Researchers in Iran have electronically modeled a nuclear armament three times more powerful than the atomic bomb employed during World War II against Hiroshima, Japan, according a chart provided to the Associated Press by a government concerned about Tehran's atomic efforts.
The document, which plots power output along a time line measured in microseconds, was one of several documents described in 2011 by the International Atomic Energy Agency as showing the "nuclear explosive yield" of atomic armaments, according to one high-level envoy.
Fears over a possible push by the country to develop a nuclear-weapon capability are expected to be a key topic at an IAEA governing board session scheduled to begin on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.
Iran has bolstered its ability to refine uranium to 20 percent and completed deployment of enrichment centrifuges at its underground bunker complex near Qum, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said earlier this month in a safeguards report to the 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors. Iran insists its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful and contends the 20 percent material would fuel a medical reactor; Washington and other capitals, though, worry the substance could enable Tehran to more quickly produce bomb fuel with an enrichment level of roughly 90 percent.
The Qum facility's full launch would triple Iran's capacity to generate 20 percent-enriched uranium, increasing its maximum possible output to 99 pounds on a monthly basis, AFP reported. Higher-level refinement could yield sufficient weapon-grade fuel for a bomb in slightly less than half a year.
Iran's has also said it intends to begin operating its Arak heavy-water reactor facility shortly after the start of 2014; the site could generate plutonium suited for use in nuclear weapons.
Tehran's progress increases the urgency of a bid by six major governments -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- to negotiate a compromise aimed at eliminating worries over a possible Iranian nuclear-weapon project, according to AFP. The sides appear poised to join Iran in late 2012 or shortly into 2013 for their first high-level gathering since June, the news agency reported.
The Vienna, Austria-based nuclear agency is anticipated to join Tehran on Dec. 13 for parallel discussions on indications of previous possible nuclear weapon-relevant studies. Such experimentation by Iran might have taken place up to 2003 and potentially afterward, according to the findings, which the U.N. organization has described to be generally "credible."
Iranian lawmaker Hossein Nejabat on Friday said his country would establish advance demands for any direct discussions with Washington, Iran's Press TV reported. “For negotiations, both sides should be in an equal position,” he said.
Press suggestions that planning is under way for such dialogue are only "journalistic remarks," the legislator added.
The IAEA safeguards report separately notes Iran's removal of atomic material from its Bushehr atomic energy facility, AFP reported. Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh referred to the move as a "normal technical procedure," but Western envoys described the development as a sign of significant accident risks at the site.
A high-level Western government insider stated: "This is not a routine matter or something that is ordinary. This is a matter of great concern."
Former U.S. State Department analyst Mark Fitzpatrick said the issue "is probably not something to be overly worried about, either on proliferation or safety grounds,"
"It is probably some glitch and Iran is taking proper precautions," he said. "But because of the way Iran does this, without giving any details, it naturally creates concerns."
Elsewhere, two members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet on Monday failed to advance through an initial party selection of possible contenders in a nationwide poll slated for Jan. 22, Reuters reported. Calls within the eight-person group of Cabinet members closest to Netanyahu for armed action against Iranian atomic sites have faced resistance from Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Zeev Benjamin Begin, a minister without portfolio. Their defeat could move the group closer to endorsing an offensive, according to an Israeli government insider.
Employing armed force against Iranian nuclear assets would be "an act of utter irresponsibility and potential immorality," and Washington should instead address the threat by extending an "explicit security guarantee" to Middle Eastern allies while imposing economic punitive measures aimed at fostering political liberalization in Iran, al-Monitor quoted one-time U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski as saying on Monday.
“You (Israel) are not going to making decisions for us,” Brzezinski added, describing a need to communicate that an Israeli armed move would not necessarily receive backing from Washington. “The U.S. has a right to its own national security policy.”
Iran is set on Wednesday to roll out a new military vessel capable of firing missiles, Press TV quoted Iranian navy head Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying.
Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said a pair of Iranian armed forces vessels is due to reach his country on Friday, Press TV reported.
"Two Iranian warships would … visit Port Sudan harbor on Nov. 30 and would stay at the harbor for three days within the military maritime cooperation," he said in comments reported by the Sudan News Agency.
In excess of 100 Nonaligned Movement participant nations have endorsed Iran's atomic power efforts, Press TV quoted Soltanieh as saying.
Sri Lanka is set to circumvent U.S. economic penalties targeting Iran's petroleum exports by tapping an unrelated joint initiative to provide $15.4 million in oil compensation, AFP reported on Monday. Sri Lankan Water Resources Secretary Ivan de Silva announced the plan in remarks to the Sunday Times.