Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Iran maintained its output of enriched uranium that world powers say may eventually be used for nuclear weapons and doubled enrichment capacity at a mountainside facility, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran’s stockpile of medium-enriched uranium grew 31 percent to 189.4 kilograms (417.6 pounds) from 145 kilograms in May, the IAEA said today in an 11-page restricted report. The Persian Gulf country had raised production of the 20 percent enriched material by a third in the three-month period ending May 25.
“The agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” according to the report. The IAEA said it hadn’t detected any material diversion from Iran’s 16 declared nuclear facilities.
About 175 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium, or 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, if further purified, could yield the quantity of weapons-grade uranium needed to produce a bomb, according to the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA that’s funded by European governments.
The report is the first since IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s creation on Aug. 10 of an Iran task force to continue the United Nations’ decade-long investigation. The U.S. and its allies allege Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, while the Islamic Republic insists it only wants atomic technology for power and medicine.
The IAEA also reported that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, purified to less than 5 percent, grew to 6,876 kilograms from 6,232 kilograms in May.
The number of centrifuges, fast-spinning machines that purify the heavy metal, installed at Iran’s fuel-fabrication plant in Natanz, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Tehran, fell to 9,156 from 9,330 in May.
Machines installed at the Fordo facility, which was built clandestinely into the side of a mountain, rose to about 2,140 from 1,064 in June. That enrichment facility has drawn particular attention from Israel because it would be difficult to destroy with an air strike.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Aug. 1 that time “is running out” for a peaceful solution to Iran’s atomic program. Israel is considering bombing the nuclear facilities before Nov. 6 U.S. elections, Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper said Aug. 10.
Iran has used 48 percent of its uranium stockpile to make fuel plates for its Tehran research reactor, which it says is used to produce medical isotopes for cancer treatment. Turning the uranium into metal renders it more difficult to enrich into weapons material.
Talks between the IAEA and Iran to negotiate broader access to people and sites suspected of nuclear links broke down Aug. 24 without an agreement.
“In the absence of engagement, the agency will not be able to resolve concerns about issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” the IAEA report said.
The IAEA, which released intelligence details that it called “credible” in a November report, said it has received new information that supports concern Iran may have researched how to manufacture atomic weapons.
“Since 2002, the agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in the Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” the report said. “Since November 2011, the agency has obtained more information which further corroborates the analysis.”
The IAEA didn’t report what new information it had received or which countries gave it to the organization.
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