After world powers failed to find a compromise with Iran in Baghdad this week, the IAEA has suggested in a new report that the Islamic Republic has expanded its atomic program. Iran claims the activities are peaceful.
Iran claimed on Saturday that a new report issued by the UN's nuclear watchdog proved the Islamic Republic's nuclear program was peaceful, despite satellite imagery indicating that a suspect facility was being scrubbed to dodge inspection.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued its most recent report on Tehran's nuclear program on Friday. The report indicated that Iran had expanded its program, installing about 350 additional centrifuges at the Fordow plant, located in a mountain outside of Qom, a Shia holy city. These centrifuges are currently not enriching. Uranium traces enriched to a 27-percent fissile concentration were also found at that facility.
Iran began uranium enrichment at a 20-percent concentration in 2010, raising concern among the international community. The 20-percent threshold is considered a short step away from a break out capacity, laying the technical foundation for 90-percent weapons-grade level enrichment.
Iranian officials have said that the higher-level uranium traces at Fordow were a technical fluke, a claim supported by analysts. Mark Fitzpatrick, with the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the news agency AFP that the higher level traces were "probably a technical glitch."
Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said the IAEA's report proves that the Islamic Republic's atomic program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.
"The report once again proves to the international community that all Iranian nuclear activities are successfully under way and are uninterrupted, and that there is no diversion in Iran's nuclear material towards military objectives," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's IAEA envoy.
Suspicious satellite imagery
Satellite imagery cited in the report, however, suggested that Iran may be trying to cover up activity at the Parchin military complex southeast of the capital, Tehran. A senior international diplomat told the Associated Press that the imagery showed trucks at Parchin and streams of liquid, suggesting that the interiors were being hosed down to wash away evidence of nuclear work.
"The buildings of interest to the agency are now subject to extensive activities that could hamper the agency's ability to undertake effective verification," the IAEA's report said.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), meanwhile, said that Iran has produced enough low-enriched uranium to eventually manufacture five nuclear weapons. Tehran has produced nearly 750 kilograms more than in the IAEA's last report in February, with Iran's monthly production having risen by a third, according to ISIS.
"This total amount of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride, if further enriched to weapons grade, is enough to make over five nuclear weapons," the US-based security institute, which closely tracks Iran's atomic program, said in its analysis.
slk/ng (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)