Iran has increased its output of enriched uranium, according to International
Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
While the United Nations agency verified
that Tehran hasn’t diverted its declared nuclear material for weapons use, the
inspectors reiterated past statements that they can’t give assurances that Iran
isn’t concealing nuclear activities.
Iran almost doubled its stockpile of
20-percent medium-enriched uranium to 145 kilograms from 73.7 kilograms in
February, the IAEA said in an 11-page report. Iran had tripled its production of
the material in the three months ending February 24.
reported they found the presence of particles of 27-percentenriched uranium at
Iran’s Fordow facility. The particles were a result of “technical reasons beyond
the operator’s control,” Iran told the Vienna-based agency, which is looking
into the matter.
Uranium enriched over 20% is considered highly enriched,
though most nuclear bombs use the heavy metal purified to 90% levels.
report is the first since IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano returned from Iran on May 21 with a commitment from the Islamic Republic’s
government to improve cooperation with inspectors.
On Saturday, a US
security institute said that Iran’s output of low-enriched uranium and total
production in the past five years would be enough for at least five nuclear
weapons if refined further.
The Institute for Science and International
Security (ISIS), a think tank that tracks Iran’s nuclear program, based the
analysis on data in the latest IAEA report.
During talks in Baghdad last
week, six world powers failed to convince Iran to scale back its
They will meet again in Moscow next month to
try to defuse a decade-old standoff that has raised fears of a new war in the
Middle East that could disrupt oil supplies.
US Undersecretary of State
for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman led a delegation of American officials that
traveled from Baghdad to Israel on Friday to brief officials on the talks. She
met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and National Security Adviser Yaakov
She spoke in support of the decision in Baghdad to continue the
talks between the six world powers and Iran and to hold a follow-up meeting in
Moscow on June 18-19.
Although she told reporters that the US and Israel
were on the same page when it came to Iran, Israel has clearly stated its
opposition to the continued talks.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in
the past week warned the West that Iran was using the talks to play for time to
advance its nuclear program.
An Israeli official repeated that stance to
The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. The official noted that the latest
decision to hold another round of talks, means that this latest diplomatic
initiative will have gone on for two months.
“Israel is concerned that
Iran is exploiting the time the peace talks are taking to move forward in its
nuclear program,” the official said, adding that Iran did not intend to halt its
The official reiterated Israel’s three demands of
Tehran: that Iran stop the enrichment of uranium, remove enriched uranium from
its country and dismantle its uranium enrichment facility near
Israel only believes that diplomacy can work if these three demands
Friday’s report by the IAEA showed Iran was pressing ahead with
its uranium enrichment work in defiance of Security Council resolutions calling
on it to suspend the activity.
It said Iran had produced almost 6.2 tons
of uranium enriched to a level of 3.5% since it began the work in 2007 – some of
which has subsequently been further processed into higher-grade
This is nearly 750 kilograms more than in the previous IAEA
report issued in February, and ISIS said Iran’s monthly production had risen by
roughly a third.
“This total amount of 3.5% low enriched uranium
hexafluoride, if further enriched to weapon grade, is enough to make over five
nuclear weapons,” ISIS said in its analysis.
It added, however, that some
of Iran’s higher-grade uranium had been converted into reactor fuel and would
not be available for nuclear weapons, at least not quickly.
report also said environmental samples taken in February at Iran’s Fordow
facility – buried deep beneath rock and soil to protect it from air strikes –
showed the presence of particles with enrichment levels of up to
Iran’s permanent representative to the body played down the
findings, saying some Western media sought to turn a technical issue into a
“This matter is a routine technical discussion that is
currently being reviewed by experts,” IRNA quoted Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as
The IAEA report suggested it was possible that particles of
uranium enriched to higherthan- declared levels could be the result of a
Experts say that while it is embarrassing for Iran,
there is no real cause for concern.
The UN agency also said satellite
images showed “extensive activities” at the Parchin military complex, which
inspectors want to check over suspicions that research relevant to nuclear
weapons was done there.
After talks in Tehran last week, IAEA chief
Yukiya Amano said the two sides were close to an agreement to let inspectors
resume investigations into suspected nuclear explosive experiments in
Iran began enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of 20% in
2010, saying it needed this to fuel a medical research reactor.
expanded the work sharply by launching enrichment at Fordow.
It alarmed a
suspicious West since such enhanced enrichment accomplishes much of the
technical leap toward 90% – or weapons-grade – uranium.
Central to the
talks in Baghdad were attempts to get Iran to halt enrichment to 20%, in
exchange for measures to ease sanctions and assistance with safety at its
Iran demanded world powers expressly confirm its right to
Iran has installed more than 50% more enrichment
centrifuges at Fordow, the IAEA report said. Although not yet being fed with
uranium, the new machines could be used to further boost Iran’s output of
uranium enriched to 20%.
ISIS said Iran still appeared to be experiencing
problems in its testing of production-scale units of more advanced centrifuges
that would allow it to refine uranium faster, even though it had made some
Some uranium particles enriched to 27% and discovered by IAEA
inspectors could be the result of a transient condition that can occur when the
material is fed into centrifuges, according to two senior international
officials familiar with the investigation. The officials spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
The IAEA found Iran’s
stockpile of uranium enriched to less than 5% grew to 6,232 kilograms from 5,451
kilograms reported in February. Its official report will be released formally on
June 4 when the IAEA’s 35- member board of governors convenes in
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.