Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to nearly weapons-grade levels, according to a report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog seen by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) also said that Iran has pushed back against the agency’s objections to Tehran’s ban on some of its inspectors designated to monitor the country’s nuclear program.
In its confidential quarterly report distributed to member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that according to its assessment, as of October 28, Iran has an estimated 128.3 kilograms (282.9 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 60% purity, which represents an increase of 6.7 kilograms since its September report.
The IAEA report also estimated that as of October 28, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was at 4,486.8 kilograms, an increase of 691.3 kilograms since the last quarterly report in September 2023.
Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
Why is Iran stockpiling enriched Uranium?
Uranium is the main fuel for nuclear reactors, and it can be found in many places around the world. In order to make the fuel, uranium is mined and goes through refining and enrichment before being loaded into a nuclear reactor.
The vast majority of nuclear power reactors use the isotope uranium-235 as fuel; however, it only makes up 0.7% of the natural uranium mined and must therefore be increased through a process called enrichment. This increases the uranium-235 concentration from 0.7% to between 3% and 5%, which is the level used in most reactors.
The enriched uranium is transported to a fuel fabrication plant where it is converted to uranium dioxide powder. This powder is then pressed to form small fuel pellets and heated to make a hard ceramic material. The pellets are subsequently inserted into thin tubes known as fuel rods, which are then grouped together to form fuel assemblies.
The number of fuel rods used to make each fuel assembly ranges from around 90 to well over 200, depending on the type of reactor. Once loaded, the fuel normally stays in the reactor core for several years.
In a nutshell, after Russia, Iran is making itself strong equipped with these nuclear weaponries. Lack of security in the middle-east has eventually allowed countries to mine and enrich uranium.
What does it mean for the world and especially the middle-east?
The scenario in the middle-east looks petrifying. Iran will stand against Israel but this time with what could be half-prepared nuclear weaponries. Russia just recently pulled out of the CTBT and now IAEA has reported about Iran’s recent findings.
In an effort to ensure Iran could not develop nuclear weapons, world powers struck a deal with Tehran in 2015 under which it agreed to limit enrichment of uranium to levels necessary for nuclear power in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. U.N. inspectors were tasked with monitoring the program.
Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018, saying he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the terms a year later. Those included provisions that Iran was allowed to enrich uranium only up to 3.67% purity and maintain a stockpile of uranium of 300 kilograms.
Weak leadership by the world power has let the door open for danger to enter the world. Joe Biden was ready to enter into a treaty but then failed to find a road-map to the details.
Iran’s allies are Russia and China. The USA should be aware of the risks involved; this could expose the fact that instead of fighting Iran, USA is indirectly engaging a war with Russia and China, which could escalate quite quickly.