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Iran’s Uranium Stock Stagnates as Reactor Delayed, IAEA Says

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Iran’s stock of uranium, the heavy metal at the center of the Islamic Republic’s clash with the United Nations, stagnated and the country delayed the startup of a new reactor, monitors reported.

While Iran’s total production of uranium enriched to 20 percent rose to 372.5 kilograms (821 pounds) from 324 kilograms in May, its stockpile of material that could be purified into bomb material at short notice grew 2 percent, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said today in a 14-page restricted report. It has converted or is in the process of converting 186.7 kilograms, or 50 percent of the stockpile, into reactor fuel, leaving it with 185.8 kilograms of material.

Even as the agency “continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material” it isn’t “in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared material.” IAEA officials will negotiate with their Iranian counterparts Sept. 27 to try to win access to suspected sites.

The report comes amid looming military strikes against Syria -- a key Iranian ally that has in the past also been accused of concealing nuclear work -- in response to chemical-weapons use against rebel-controlled areas. Iran’s new president, Hassan Rohani, has been angling to give his office more sway over atomic negotiations.

The amount of uranium enriched to 5 percent rose to 9,704 kilograms from 8,960 kilograms in May, according to the report. Iran installed 46 percent more advanced centrifuges and currently has 1,008 stationed at its fuel-enrichment plant in Natanz.

Reactor Delayed

In a letter dated Aug. 25, Iran told the IAEA that it would delay startup of its Arak heavy-water reactor. The UN has demanded that work on the facility, which may produce plutonium that can be used for nuclear weapons when operational, be stopped.

While Arak’s reactor vessel is in place, “a number of other major components had yet to be installed, including the control room equipment, the refueling machine and reactor cooling pumps,” the IAEA said. Iran, which had intended to begin testing Arak in the first quarter of 2014, didn’t project a new date.

Iran did make progress on other fronts, according to the report. The country will begin test-producing medical isotopes made with domestically produced fuel during the first week of September.

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.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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