Iran’s “Plan B” for a nuclear bomb. If only this were fiction.

Water vapour, circled, is seen being emitted from forced air coolers at the Arak heavy water production plant earlier this month, showing that the facility is operational Photo: DigitalGlobe Inc/McKenzie Intelligence Ltd

Water vapour, circled, is seen being emitted from forced air coolers at the Arak heavy water production plant earlier this month, showing that the facility is operational Photo: DigitalGlobe Inc/McKenzie Intelligence Ltd

If only this were fiction, friends. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

“The Telegraph can disclose details of activity at a heavily-guarded Iranian facility from which international inspectors have been barred for 18 months,” reports the London Telegraph. “The images, taken earlier this month, show that Iran has activated the Arak heavy-water production plant. Heavy water is needed to operate a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium, which could then be used to make a bomb. The images show signs of activity at the Arak plant, including a cloud of steam that indicates heavy-water production.”

“The striking image of steam over the Arak heavy-water complex is a vivid demonstration that the regime has more than one pathway to a potential nuclear weapon,” notes the Telegraph. “Previously, international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme have focused on the Islamic Republic’s attempts to enrich uranium at plants including Fordow. But the new images of Arak highlight the progress Iran has made on facilities that could allow it to produce plutonium, potentially giving the country a second option in developing a nuclear weapon….Iran has told the IAEA that it will begin operating the reactor at Arak in the first three months of 2014. The country still lacks the technology to reprocess plutonium and use it for a weapon. But North Korea has successfully developed that technology, and some analysts speculate that Iran could do the same.”

“Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, suggested that Arak could be part of a process that might trigger Western strikes on Iran,” reports the Telegraph. “One option for the Iranian regime would be to acquire the necessary reprocessing technology from North Korea, he said. ‘By then, the option of a military strike on an operating reactor would present enormous complications because of the radiation that would be spread,’ he explained. ‘Some think Israel’s red line for military action is before Arak comes online.'”

UPDATE: “I think there’s time, but there’s not much time” for sanctions to work, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren told USA Today. “There’s a window for diplomacy, but the window is closing….We know that given the centrifuges that they have now, they will pass a red line. That’s the point where we will no longer be able to prevent them from making a nuclear weapon, and that line is coming up in the summer. If they install the next generation of centrifuges — and they’re installing them right now — (and) if those centrifuges begin to spin, then the time will be even shorter.”

Key headlines I’m tracking:

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