UN nuclear watchdog says Iran expanding stockpile of near-weapons grade uranium

Tehran has not reconsidered barring of IAEA’s most experienced inspectors, confidential report says, as talks with Islamic Republic falter after president’s fatal crash

Illustrative: Centrifuges line a hall at the Uranium Enrichment Facility in Natanz, Iran, in a still image from a video aired by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting company on April 17, 2021, six days after the hall had been damaged in a mysterious attack. (IRIB via AP, File)
Illustrative: Centrifuges line a hall at the Uranium Enrichment Facility in Natanz, Iran, in a still image from a video aired by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting company on April 17, 2021, six days after the hall had been damaged in a mysterious attack. (IRIB via AP, File)

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels, a confidential report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said Monday.

The report, seen by The Associated Press, said Iran now has 142.1 kilograms (313.2 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 60% — an increase of 20.6 kilograms (45.4 pounds) since the last report in February. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

According to the report, Iran’s overall stockpile of enriched uranium stands at 6201.3 kilograms (13671.5 pounds), which represents an increase of 675.8 kilograms (1489.8 pounds) since the last report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In its current report, the IAEA also said Tehran has not reconsidered the agency’s September 2023 decision of barring the most experienced nuclear inspectors from monitoring its nuclear program, but added that it expected Iran “to do so in the context of the ongoing consultations between the Agency and Iran.”

The IAEA also said that the deaths of Iran’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash last week have caused a pause in the UN nuclear watchdog’s talks with Tehran over improving cooperation.

In its current report, the IAEA said that Iran suggested in a letter dated May 21 that discussions related to the cooperation between the IAEA and Iran “be continued in Tehran on an appropriate date that will be mutually agreed upon.”

File – International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi (L) and head of Iran’s atomic energy department Mohammad Eslami (R) shake hands at the conclusion of their joint press conference after their meeting in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, May 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful, but the IAEA chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has already warned that the Islamic Republic has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons-grade levels to make “several” nuclear bombs if Tehran were to choose to do so. He has acknowledged that the agency cannot guarantee that none of Iran’s centrifuges has been peeled away for clandestine enrichment.

Iran and the nuclear watchdog are still negotiating over how to implement a deal struck last year to expand inspections of the Islamic Republic’s rapidly advancing atomic program.

The IAEA’s acknowledgment shows the challenges his inspectors face, years after the collapse of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and the wider tensions gripping the Mideast over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

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