Bloomberg: Iran increased its rate of uranium production during the last three months and continued to stonewall United Nations nuclear inspectors investigating whether the country is concealing an atomic weapons program.
By Jonathan Tirone
June 5 (Bloomberg) — Iran increased its rate of uranium production during the last three months and continued to stonewall United Nations nuclear inspectors investigating whether the country is concealing an atomic weapons program.
Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium increased by 33 percent to 1,339 kilograms (2,952 pounds) from 1,010 kilograms since the last International Atomic Energy Agency report, on Feb. 19, the IAEA said today. That’s faster than the 20 percent jump in uranium stocks reported in the previous quarter.
Iran’s lack of cooperation gives “rise to concerns which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” IAEA Director- General Mohamed ElBaradei said in the 5-page report, sent to the agency’s 35-member board of governors in advance of their June 15 quarterly meeting in Vienna.
Iran, under UN investigation since 2003, has enough low- enriched uranium to produce the minimum amount needed to arm a bomb if the material were further enriched to weapons grade. The government in Tehran denies that it wants atomic weapons and says the enriched uranium is meant to fuel a nuclear reactor.
The country has installed 31 percent more centrifuges for enriching uranium since February at its fuel enrichment plant in Natanz, bringing the total to 7,221, according to the IAEA. Inspectors want to install more remote monitoring cameras at the fuel factory.
“Given the increasing number of cascades being installed at the fuel enrichment plant and the increased rate of production of low enriched uranium at the facility, improvements to the containment and surveillance measures at the plant are required,” the report said.
Iran, which is under three sets of UN sanctions over its nuclear development, was referred to the Security Council by the IAEA board in March 2006. It continues to defy the UN by enriching uranium and building a research reactor capable of producing plutonium.
President Barack Obama has reiterated U.S. willingness to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear program.
“This is not simply about America’s interest; it’s about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path,” Obama said of the cleric-led Islamic nation yesterday in Cairo in a speech directed at the Muslim world. “Iran should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power, if it complies with its responsibilities.”
The U.S. has in the past offered civilian nuclear technology, trade agreements and security guarantees if Iran ceases to enrich uranium.
“There will be no political consequence from minor technical progress of enrichment,” said Paul Ingram, director of the London-based British American Security Information Council, before the report was released. “Progress is to be expected from the kind of ongoing nuclear program that Iran has built.”
London’s Verification Research Training and Information Center estimates that 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium could yield 15 to 22 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium, enough for the production of a device under the supervision of an expert bomb-maker.