‘Enriched’ Iran to become a nuclear state?

The UN nuclear watchdog has said that Iran has created enough low-enriched uranium to create a nuclear weapon – possibly as early as within the next few months.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report, which was made public on Thursday, the nuclear centre in Natantz, central Iran, has already stockpiled over a tonne of low-enriched uranium (LEU). The creation of a nuclear bomb, however, requires highly enriched uranium (HEU), and Iran, if it really does aspire to such capabilities, will need time to produce this substance from its low-enriched uranium supplies.

The nuclear centre in Natanz lacks the technical expertise and high-speed centrifuges to carry out this process. Thus, Iran would either have to upgrade the Natanz facility, or transfer its low-enriched uranium to some other place to complete the enrichment process. There is no information available whether the state has the appropriate facilities.

The IAEA admits that it does not have all of the facts about Iran’s nuclear programme.

“What should be of concern is that the IAEA is becoming less able to provide an accurate picture of what is going on,” the report read. “We don't know where centrifuges are being manufactured or whether they are being delivered to Natanz or somewhere else. And we cannot see what is happening at a heavy water facility under construction at Arak, or whether that is being used for peaceful purposes,” said an IAEA spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Iran insists that its activities are legal and within their sovereign rights.

Iran's permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters that they “fully co-operate with the IAEA in accordance with the comprehensive safeguard, which is the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) safeguard,” adding that Iran would not suspend its uranium activities.

Uranium reserves in Iran

By the end of January 2009, Iran had 1010 kilos, having produced an additional 171 kilos of the substance since November 2008, the IAEA reports.

If Iran does not provide the level of transparency demanded by the UN Security Council, the nuclear watchdog will fail to “ensure that the state does not have unregistered nuclear developments,” the IAEA report says.

Iran states that the enriched uranium is needed for launching an atomic power station in Bushehr, which it insists is purely for energy purposes. However, Israel and the US, as well as other western countries, believe that Teheran has ambitions to create a nuclear bomb.