Iran Has Amassed 'Significant Quantity' of 60%-enriched Uranium, UN Watchdog Says

Western powers fear Iran is getting closer to being able to sprint towards producing a nuclear bomb if it chose to

Reuters
Reuters
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Tehran, in March.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Tehran, in March.Credit: AP
Reuters
Reuters

A quarterly IAEA report said Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched to 60% – close to the roughly 90% that is weapons grade, in the form that can be fed into uranium-enriching centrifuges – is estimated to have grown by 9.9 kg to 43.1 kg, Reuters reported on Monday.

That amounts to more than what the IAEA calls a "significant quantity", defined as "the approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded" – or theoretically enough material, if enriched further, to make a nuclear bomb.

At 60% purity a significant quantity would be around 42 kg of uranium.

Western powers fear Iran is getting closer to being able to sprint towards producing a nuclear bomb if it chose to, though Iran says its intentions are entirely peaceful.

Satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. showing Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, in Natanz, in April. Credit: Vahid Salemi/AP

Israel's defense minister, Benny Gantz, warned earlier in May that Tehran has doubled its stores of 60% enriched uranium over the past two months, and that the country is weeks away from having stockpiled sufficient material to construct its first nuclear bomb.

Gantz also warned that Iran is close to completing about a thousand advanced IR6 centrifuges at new underground sites being built near its Natanz nuclear plant, and that it is accumulating knowledge and experience in development, research, production and operation of these centrifuges that will be "irreversible."

A second fresh quarterly IAEA report detailing Iran's continued failure to provide satisfactory answers raises pressure on the United States and its allies to take action against Iran at the board meeting, since Tehran and the IAEA announced a renewed push in March to clear things up by now.

The lack of progress could set up a new diplomatic clash with the West when the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors meets next week. If Western powers seek a resolution criticizing Tehran it could deal a further blow to stalled efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

"Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the Agency's findings at those locations," the report said, adding: "The safeguards issues related to these three locations remain outstanding."

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