Iran converts enriched uranium to near-weapons grade defies West

As per a report by UN Nuclear watchdog, Iran has converted some of its enriched uranium to near weapons-grade.

This provocation is however unlikely to wreck indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal; it will however make it harder to implement any resulting agreement to return to the limits on Iran’s stock of enriched uranium.

In a joint statement, countries involved in the talks, including the France, US, Germany and Britain have called on Iran to not carry out the work.

“We strongly urge Iran to avoid undertaking any new escalations and in particular, call upon Iran to immediately cease all activity related to conversion of highly enriched uranium, which will have practical implications for returning to JCPoA limits,” reads a joint statement.

The agreement, which according to diplomats is nearing completion, would require Iran to get rid of its stock of uranium enriched above the deal’s limit of 3.67% purity. Its most highly enriched uranium is roughly 60%, close to the 90% of weapons grade, of which it has about 33 kg (73 lb).

In a report, the International Atomic Energy Agency informed its member states that Iran’s stock of enriched uranium, up to 60%, was all in the form of uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for uranium-enriching centrifuges. Incidentally, uranium hexafluoride can easily be diluted and transported, a process delegates at the talks have been discussing for months.

The confidential report summarized in a short statement by the IAEA states, between March 6 and March 9 the IAEA had verified that Iran had converted 4.6 lb (2.1 kg) of its up to 60% uranium into 3.8 lb (1.7 kg) in a different form enriched to the same level suitable for making small “targets” for irradiation.

Irradiating such targets produces molybdenum-99, a medical isotope that produces another one widely used in medical diagnostic imaging. What remains of the target includes highly enriched uranium in a form that must be processed to recover it.

According to the confidential report, on March 11 and 13, the IAEA had verified that Iran had produced 32 targets containing a total of 6.6 ounces (186.7 grams) of enriched uranium up to 60%; Iran had later declared that they had all been irradiated.

On March 15, the report states, Iran had produced another batch of 56 targets containing a total of 11.6 ounces (329 grams) of enriched uranium to the same level.

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