(photo credit: Courtesy)
TEHERAN, Iran — Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to higher levels, the country's nuclear chief said Saturday, in defiance of UN demands to halt the program.
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Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi also said Iran has built a plant to make nuclear fuel plates and rods in Isfahan. That would allow Iran to produce its own reactor fuel and give it more leverage against the West. But Western experts have disputed whether Iran has the technological capability to produce plates and rods when Teheran made similar claims in the past.
Iran's refusal to stop enrichment lies at the heart of its dispute with the West over the country's nuclear program.
Salehi, who is also Iran's acting foreign minister, said Teheran now has
40 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent, up from 30 kilograms
reported in October.
Uranium enriched to 20 percent is enough to produce fuel for a medical
research reactor but far below the more than 90 percent required to
build fissile material for nuclear warheads.
A deal for the West to provide fuel for the reactor has fallen apart in
the deadlock over Iran's broader nuclear program, which the West
suspects is designed to develop atomic bombs. Iran denies the
allegations, and says the program is peaceful.
Iran says fuel for the Teheran research reactor that produces the
medical radioisotopes will run out in September, leaving it without the
materials needed to diagnose and treat 850,000 cancer patients across
"We've produced nearly 40 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. We
hope to inject the first Iranian-made fuel assembly into the Teheran
reactor by September," the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted him as
Salehi said Iran initially had no intention to enrich uranium to 20
percent but was forced to do so after world powers refused to provide it