Iran on Sunday indicated it holds more than 110 pounds of uranium enriched to 20 percent, the Xinhua News Agency reported (see GSN, June 10).
The Persian Gulf nation last year began further refining low-enriched uranium from its stockpile, ostensibly for producing medical isotopes at an existing research reactor in Tehran. The United States and other Western powers, though, have feared the process could help Iran produce nuclear-weapon material, which has an enrichment level around 90 percent. Tehran has insisted its nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful.
“We need 120 kilograms [265 pounds] enrichment up to 20 percent. Of course, we have been able to produce successfully over 50 kilograms,” Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh said.
“But, we still need. We have to speed up,” Soltanieh said. “Because Tehran research reactor is in desperate need for fuel, because Tehran reactor should produce radioisotopes for hospitals” (Xinhua News Agency I/China Daily, June 12).
Iran last Wednesday said it would shift production of higher-enriched uranium to the new Qum facility and boost generation of the material by threefold.
Iran is “shortening [the] decision time” it would need to start assembling a nuclear weapon after collecting enough fissile material for a bomb, the Christian Science Monitor quoted Henry Sokolski, head of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, as saying.