Iran’s Stockpile of Uranium Has Grown Further, According to a UN Nuclear Watchdog Report

According to a U.N. nuclear watchdog report obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, Iran has boosted its total uranium stockpile even further and has persisted in preventing the agency’s most experienced inspectors from keeping an eye on its nuclear program.

In a second classified report that was sent to member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency stated that Tehran had not provided any new information regarding the reason behind the discovery of artificial uranium particles at two different locations.

Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was estimated by the IAEA in its quarterly report to be 5,525.5 kilograms (about 12,182 pounds) as of February 10, 2023. This is an increase of 1,038.7 kilograms (2,289 pounds) since the last quarterly report in November 2023.

It also stated that, based on its evaluation, Iran possesses an estimated 121.5 kg (267.8 lbs) of uranium that has been enriched to a 60% purity, a 6.8 kg (14.9 lb) drop from the prior report in November 2023.

Iran’s recent diluting of part of its 60% enriched uranium with lower-grade material is what caused the reduction.

As per the IAEA’s definition, the amount of uranium that can be hypothetically used to create a single atomic weapon is approximately 42 kilograms (92.5 pounds) enriched to 60%. The 60% purity is only a small technical step away from 90% purity, which is used in weapons.

According to the IAEA, Iran boosted the rate of enrichment to 9 kilograms (19.8 pounds) at the end of the year after slowing it down to 3 kilos (6.6 pounds) each month between June and November of last year.

The Associated Press was informed by Eric Brewer, deputy vice president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, located in Washington, that Iran might be able to produce many nuclear bombs.

If enriched to 90 percent, Iran possesses enough material at 60 percent to produce about three nuclear bombs. Brewer stated that Iran possesses enough material for multiple more bombs when you factor in its stockpile of five percent and twenty percent enriched uranium.

“Iran would need only a few weeks to produce that material suitable for weapons use, but it would probably take much longer—a year or more—to build an actual bomb it could deliver,” the speaker continued.

In exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, Iran was permitted to enrich uranium to a maximum purity of 3.67%, maintain a stockpile of 300 kilograms (661 pounds), and utilize only very basic IR-1 centrifuges—machines that spin uranium gas at high speed for enrichment purposes—as part of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. U.N. inspectors were assigned to keep an eye on the initiative.

With the promise to negotiate a better agreement, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2018, but that promise was never fulfilled. A year later, Iran started violating the agreement.

Although U.S. President Joe Biden expressed willingness to resume discussions with Iran over nuclear issues, official attempts to establish a way to reopen those talks broke down in August 2022. Nuclear diplomacy with Iran has become more challenging in the interim due to changes in Middle East tensions and changes in global political conditions.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful uses, such as energy or medical research, and has always denied ever pursuing nuclear weapons. However, Tehran possesses enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear weapons, should it decide to create them, the IAEA’s director-general forewarned last year. Experts on non-proliferation predict that Iran would still probably require several months to develop a nuclear weapon.

In the second report, the IAEA stated that Tehran has neglected to declare Varamin and Turquzabad as possible nuclear sites, and that Iran’s government has not replied to the nuclear watchdog’s inquiry concerning the source and present location of artificial uranium particles.

Over the previous five years, Iran has been accused by the IAEA of obstructing such an investigation. Tehran did, however, make some headway in 2023 when it offered “a possible explanation” for the undeclared uranium particles found at a another facility known as Marivan. The safeguards investigation of the undisclosed sites, according to Western sources, may validate long-held beliefs that Iran maintained a nuclear weapons development until 2003.

The report further said that little progress has been made in June 2022 to installation additional monitoring equipment, such as cameras. Inspectors from the IAEA were permitted to “maintain the cameras at the workshops in Esfahan, but without providing access to the data recorded by those cameras,” according to the agency’s statement.

The only data that has been available since June 2022 is from the cameras at the centrifuge workshop in Isfahan in May 2023; however, Iran has refused to provide the IAEA access to this data.

Iran blocked several of the IAEA’s most seasoned inspectors from keeping an eye on its nuclear program in September 2023 in response to criticism on those problems from the United States, Britain, France, and Germany.

The IAEA stated in its most recent report that Tehran has not changed its stance and that Rafael Grossi, the organization’s director, “deeply regrets” this choice.

Iran’s abrupt removal of the designations of several seasoned agency inspectors is something that the Director General still finds deeply offensive, the statement stated.

Additionally, the report stated that in late October 2023, Iran’s nuclear head, Mohammad Eslami, reaffirmed that his nation “was within its rights to de-designate the Agency inspectors.”

Iran was previously reprimanded by the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors for its lack of cooperation with the organization. It is unclear at this point if the board, which will meet in Vienna for the entire following week, will take this action once more.

The U.S. and Iran are experiencing increased tensions at the time of the classified reports.

In retribution for Iran’s armament shipments, which it claimed were supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House threatened to implement further sanctions against Tehran in the coming days and threatened to take “swift” and “serious” action if Tehran proceeded with supplying ballistic missiles to Moscow.

Additionally, the United States and Britain are battling an upsurge in attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden by Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

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