Iran Increases Its Uranium Stockpile to Near Weapons-Grade Levels, UN Nuclear Watchdog Says

Iran is seeking to have economic sanctions imposed over the country’s controversial nuclear program lifted in exchange for slowing the program down.

AP/Vahid Salemi
Missiles at an Iranian military base at northern Tehran, April 17, 2024. AP/Vahid Salemi

VIENNA — Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels, according to a confidential report on Monday by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the latest in Tehran’s attempts to steadily exert pressure on the international community.

Iran is seeking to have economic sanctions imposed over the country’s controversial nuclear program lifted in exchange for slowing the program down.

The program — as all matters of state in Iran — is under the guidance of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and that likely won’t change in the wake of last week’s helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president and foreign minister.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the wider Middle East over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Israel and Iran have carried out direct strikes on each other’s territory for the first time last month.

The report said that as of May 11, Iran has 313.2 pounds of uranium enriched up to 60 percent — an increase of 45.4 pounds since the last report by the UN watchdog in February. Uranium enriched at 60 percent purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.

By IAEA’s definition, around 92.5 pounds of uranium enriched to 60 percent is the amount at which creating one atomic weapon is theoretically possible — if the material is enriched further, to 90 percent.

Also as of May 11, the report says Iran’s overall stockpile of enriched uranium stands at 1,3671.5 pounds, which represents an increase of 1,489.8 pounds since the IAEA’s previous report.

Iran has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but the IAEA chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has previously warned that Tehran has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons-grade levels to make “several” nuclear bombs if it chose to do so.

He has acknowledged the UN agency cannot guarantee that none of Iran’s centrifuges may have been peeled away for clandestine enrichment.

Monday’s report also said that Tehran has not reconsidered its September 2023 decision to bar IAEA inspectors from further monitoring its nuclear program and added that it expects Iran “to do so in the context of the ongoing consultations between the (IAEA) agency and Iran.”

According to the report, Mr. Grossi “deeply regrets” Iran’s decision to bar inspectors — and a reversal of that decision “remains essential to fully allow the agency to conduct its verification activities in Iran effectively.”

The New York Sun

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