Iran Has More Enriched Uranium Close to Weapons Grade: UN

Agency has warned there's enough to build several nuclear bombs
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2024 4:00 PM CDT
Iran Has More Enriched Uranium Close to Weapons Grade: UN
Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency addresses the media after arriving at the Vienna International Airport in Schwechat, Austria, on May 7.   (AP Photo/Heinz-Peter Bader)

Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels, according to a confidential report on Monday by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the latest in Tehran's attempts to steadily exert pressure on the international community. Iran is seeking to have economic sanctions imposed over its nuclear program lifted in exchange for slowing the program down, the AP reports. The program—as all matters of state in Iran—is under the guidance of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and that likely won't change in the wake of last week's helicopter crash that killed the nation's president and foreign minister.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the wider Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war. Israel and Iran carried out direct strikes on each other's territory for the first time last month. The report, seen by the AP, said that as of May 11, Iran had 313.2 pounds of uranium enriched up to 60%—an increase of 45.4 pounds since the last report by the UN watchdog in February. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. By IAEA's definition, around 92.5 pounds of uranium enriched to 60% is the amount at which creating one atomic weapon is theoretically possible—if the material is enriched further, to 90%.

Also as of May 11, the IAEA report says Iran's overall stockpile of enriched uranium stands at 13,671.5 pounds, which represents an increase of 1,489.8 pounds since the IAEA's previous report. Iran has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but the IAEA chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has previously warned that Tehran has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons-grade levels to make several nuclear bombs if it chose to do so. He has acknowledged the UN agency cannot guarantee that none of Iran's centrifuges have been peeled away for clandestine enrichment.

(More Iranian nuclear program stories.)

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