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Friday 25 May 2012
The UN atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats say.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 per cent at the Fordo enrichment plant in central Iran, the diplomats told The Associated Press on Friday.
That is still substantially below the 90-per cent level needed to make the fissile core of nuclear arms. But it is above Iran's highest-known enrichment grade, which is close to 20 per cent, and which already can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than the Islamic Republic's main stockpile, which can only be used for fuel at around 3.5 per cent.
The diplomats - who demanded anonymity because their information is privileged - said the find did not necessarily mean that Iran was covertly raising its enrichment threshold toward weapons-grade level.
They said the centrifuges that produce enriched uranium could have over-enriched at the start as technicians adjusted their output - an assessment shared by nonproliferation expert David Albright.
Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security looks for signs of proliferation, said a new configuration at Fordo means its tends to 'overshoot 20 per cent' at the start.
'Nonetheless, embarrassing for Iran,' he wrote in an email to the AP.
Calls to Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, were rejected and the switchboard at the Iranian mission said he was not available. IAEA media officials said the agency had no comment on the latest report.
Iran is under several rounds of UN sanctions for its failure to disclose information on its controversial nuclear program. Tehran says it is enriching uranium to provide more nuclear energy for its growing population, while the US and other nations fear that Iran doing that to have the ability to make nuclear weapons.
The latest attempts to persuade Iran to compromise and let UN experts view its nuclear program ended inconclusively on Wednesday at a meeting in Baghdad.
Source: Australian News Channel