Iran’s Nuclear Program in 2011: Key Findings and Resources

David Albright and Andrea Stricker 

Throughout 2011, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has closely followed the Iranian nuclear crisis, including Iran’s technical advancements, setbacks, controversy over possible military dimensions to its nuclear program, and internal politics that may make any diplomatic deal weakened or unlikely. Below is a “reader’s digest” of key developments and findings with links to resources for more information for the interested reader:
  • Iran has largely recovered from the 2009/2010 Stuxnet cyber attack which likely destroyed 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant. Iran has taken steps to maintain and increase its low enriched uranium production. Nevertheless, the attack may have delayed Natanz’s expansion and the deployment of more advanced centrifuges. Meanwhile, the United States released its international cyber security strategy, which underscores that the United States finds itself vulnerable to similar attacks.
  • Iran may continue a “slow-motion breakout” with its decision to move 20 percent enrichment to its once-secret Fordow enrichment facility at Qom. Iran’s aim may be to slowly acclimatize the international community to conditions that would make a breakout to nuclear weapons more feasible.
  • Iran continues to refuse to answer the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) questions about military dimensions of its nuclear program, including work with high explosives, advanced neutron initiators, and detonators. In its May 2011 safeguards report on Iran, the IAEA highlighted that “there are indications that certain of these activities may have continued beyond 2004.” ISIS continues to assert that any diplomatic deal that accepts Iran not coming clean about its military nuclear-related work and allows for continued enrichment may be, in the long run, a fruitless policy.
  • Internal Iranian politics may prevent any substantive movement on negotiations over the nuclear issue. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Majles’ attempts to rein in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could signify chances for only a weakened nuclear deal or make any deal at all unlikely. 
Katherine Tajer, an intern at ISIS, contributed to this report.