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IAEA report confirms near-weapons-grade uranium found in Iran

A top U.S. defense official has warned that Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in two weeks or less.

Centrifuges at the Iran nuclear energy exhibition in the Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense Museum in Tehran, 2018. Credit: Maps/Shutterstock.
Centrifuges at the Iran nuclear energy exhibition in the Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense Museum in Tehran, 2018. Credit: Maps/Shutterstock.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed in a report that its inspectors found enriched uranium to 83.7 percent at Iran’s underground nuclear site in Fordow.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of a confidential IAEA quarterly report stating that “particles” of the substance, just below the 90% enrichment level considered “military grade,” had been detected.

The IAEA last month chastised the Islamic Republic for modifying the connection between two centrifuge clusters at its Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP). The change was discovered during an unannounced inspection at the site, which is built into a mountain.

The new IAEA report confirms that on Jan. 21, two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges at the FFEP had been configured in a manner “substantially different” from what had been previously declared. Inspectors took samples at the site the following day, which showed particles of uranium enriched up to 83.7%, the report said.

“Iran informed the agency that ‘unintended fluctuations’ in enrichment levels may have occurred during the transition period. Discussions between the agency and Iran to clarify the matter are ongoing,” added the report.

Iran has been enriching uranium to up to 60% since April 2021. Three months ago, it began enriching to 60% at a second site at Fordow.

The new IAEA report pegged Iran’s uranium stockpile as of Feb. 12 at some 3,760 kilograms (8,289 pounds)—an increase of 87.1 kilograms (192 pounds) since its last quarterly report, in November. Of that, 87.5 kilograms (192 pounds) is enriched up to 60%.

On Tuesday, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl warned that Tehran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in under two weeks, comments that echoed those made in an interview aired over the weekend by CIA chief William Burns.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that history has shown that in the absence of a credible military threat or actual military action, Iran will become a nuclear power.

“The longer you wait, the harder that becomes [to prevent]. We’ve waited very long. I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is not merely an Israeli interest; it’s an American interest; it’s in the interest of the entire world,” he said.

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