Iran has apparently resumed converting small amounts of enriched uranium into nuclear fuel, diplomats from the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog said Sunday, signaling that Tehran may be trying to buy more time for diplomacy.
Diplomats associated with the IAEA asserted that Tehran’s move was meant to reduce the amount of material that could be used to make weapons, though, as one diplomat told Reuters, “very, very little had been done” so far.
Converting enriched uranium into fuel may be Iran’s way of buying itself more time for negotiations over its nuclear program, pushing off a possible confrontation with Israel and the US for a while longer.
Iran carried out a similar move last year by converting around 100 kg of its 20-percent enriched uranium into fuel. Some analysts believe Tehran is deliberately keeping its enriched uranium stockpiles below the bar needed for potential weapons-grade material, while still advancing its nuclear technology, Reuters reported.
Iran and the West are slated to reopen negotiations over its nuclear program next week, after a hiatus of several months. The talks with the five Security Council powers plus Germany — the P5+1 — have so far yielded no substantive results.
On Sunday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran would be willing to talk to the US, as long as others stopped “pointing the gun” at his country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated Israel would take action before allowing Iran to stockpile enough enriched high-grade uranium to achieve nuclear weapon capabilities. Based on data reported by the IAEA, Iran is expected to hit Netanyahu’s “red line” in May or June, unless it begins converting more of its stockpiles into fuel or slows enrichment.
It is widely assumed Iran currently does not hold enriched uranium beyond 20-percent. Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, a claim widely dismissed by the West.