Iran lifted its output of uranium, the heavy metal at the center of the Islamic Republic’s clash with the United Nations, according to inspectors, who also reported that the Persian Gulf country continued upgrading the machines it’s using to purify the material.
Iran’s production of medium-enriched uranium rose to 324 kilograms (714 pounds) from 280 kilograms reported in February, the IAEA said today in a 13-page restricted report. Iran has converted or is in the process of converting 142 kilograms, or 44 percent of the stockpile, into reactor fuel, leaving it with 182 kilograms that could be further enriched at short notice.
“While the agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material,” inspectors are “unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,” the Vienna-based IAEA said.
Tensions in the Middle East are rising as fighting in Syria, a key Iranian ally, threatens to spread into neighboring countries. Israel and the U.S., which accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, haven’t ruled out military strikes to disrupt the Persian Gulf nation’s atomic work. Iran, with the world’s fourth-biggest proven oil reserves, insists its nuclear program is peaceful. The country is under dozens of UN sanctions.
About 175 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium, or 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, if further purified, could yield the quantity of weapons-grade uranium needed to produce a bomb, according to the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA that’s funded by European governments.
Iran also continued installing more advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility, the agency said. The machines can enrich more uranium in less time.
“Given the nature and extent of credible information available to the agency about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program, the agency considers it essential and urgent for Iran to engage,” the IAEA said in the report, which will be released to the public on June 3, when the agency’s 35-member board of governors meets in Vienna.
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