iran nuclear workers 298.
(photo credit: AP)
Iran's Interior Ministry denied a report Friday quoting the minister as saying Iran has produced 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of enriched uranium. The ministry said he was misquoted.
The semiofficial ISNA news agency reported that the minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, also said Iran now has 3,000 hooked-up centrifuges actively enriching uranium.
The Interior Ministry later issued a statement denying Pourmohammadi made the comments reported by ISNA. The minister "only spoke about Iran's nuclear achievements and he did not mention amount of enriched uranium and the number of installed centrifuges," said the statement, carried on the Web site of the state broadcasting company. "The recently published report is denied."
The ministry gave no figures for the amount of enriched uranium or the number of working centrifuges. The ministry has no direct role in Iran's disputed nuclear program, and Iranian nuclear officials were not available Friday to comment on the figures given in the ISNA report.
ISNA quoted Pourmohammadi as saying "right now, 3,000 of the (centrifuge) machines have been operational and more than 100 kilograms of enriched uranium has been ready and stored."
ISNA is not considered an official agency, but the Iranian government sometimes uses it to leak information on sensitive issues.
David Albright, a former UN nuclear inspector and an expert on Iran's program, said he believed that the report of 100 kilograms "is probably high, but they are going to reach that level soon, in a month or two. They probably have more like 50 kilograms (110 pounds) now."
He said all of Iran's stock is low-enriched uranium.
It would take about 15-25 kilograms (33-55 pounds) of highly enriched uranium to produce an "implosion-type" nuclear bomb, and 50 kilograms (110 pounds) to produce a more powerful bomb like the one used at Hiroshima, Albright said.
In the enrichment process, uranium gas is spun in centrifuges to purify it. Enriched to around 4 percent it can be used for making fuel. Uranium enriched to above 90 percent can be used for a warhead, requiring either thousands more centrifuges or more time.
Albright said Iran is believed to have 1,500-1,600 centrifuges currently working, "but they may not be enriching that much."
In Vienna, a diplomat familiar with Iran's enrichment activities said the ISNA report appeared to be talking about "material ... over the past two years" that Iran has produced as part of its experiments with uranium enrichment.
"It's nothing new or exciting," he told The Associated Press, adding the comments were too vague to further qualify. He demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
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