Iran’s Improved Centrifuges Leave Media Overestimating Uranium Enrichment

Claims of 5 kg-per-day production vastly overstated

Iranian officials announced the installation of a series of improved IR-6 uranium centrifuges, which are estimated to be 10 times as efficient as the IR-1 centrifuges that were really in place. This led to a lot of bad math and panicky reporting in media outlets about Iran’s uranium enrichment.

At the core of this was a quote from Iranian officials that they can process roughly 5 kg per day now. That is to say, they can insert 5 kg of unenriched uranium into the machines and turn it into the smaller amount of low-enriched uranium.

But because this is Iran, and uranium, the media quickly extrapolated this into Iran producing 5 kg of enriched uranium per day. They claimed that the level reported two months ago was 450 g, and Iran’s claim of 10 times efficiency and some rounding got them sold on this 5 kg idea.

In reality, enrichment means that only a small fraction of the unenriched uranium input can be output at a higher level. Without knowing the exact nature of Iran’s yellowcake uranium, these calculations are not readily available for figuring out exact production, but taking Iran’s word for it that they are inputting 5 kg per day, their output is almost certainly closer to the 450 g output from months ago than it is to the 5 kg output the press is reporting.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.