ISTANBUL, Turkey – Iran plans to convert 37 tons of uranium into a substance that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said in a report Wednesday.
Although the Iranian plans do not violate nonproliferation regulations because the material also has peaceful uses, they immediately stoked concern in Washington about the aims of Tehran’s ambitious nuclear program.
“Iran’s announcements are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran’s nuclear program to the Security Council,” said U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who called Iran’s nuclear efforts a “threat to international peace and security.”
Iran’s intentions were disclosed in a confidential report prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Iran insists its nuclear program is intended solely to generate electricity, but the United States has repeatedly accused Tehran of concealing a weapons program behind a civilian facade.
In its sixth report on the Iranian program, the atomic agency gave it mixed marks. It praised Iran for cooperating on many fronts, but said key aspects of its nuclear activities were still unclear because of missing information.
The two primary areas of concern are the sources of uranium contamination found at four separate locations during the past year in Iran and the extent of the country’s efforts to develop advanced centrifuges for turning uranium gas into enriched uranium, which can be used in weapons or to fuel civilian reactors.
The report provided explanations for a mystery surrounding the discovery of traces of weapons-grade uranium at a huge enrichment plant under construction near the central Iranian city of Natanz and at a formerly secret facility outside Tehran known as Kalaye Electric Co..
The IAEA report said Iran’s statement that the contamination came from components bought from another country was “plausible.” It also said there was no indication Iran had tried to produce weapons-grade uranium at those two locations.
The country that supplied the contaminated components was not named in the report, but diplomats familiar with the inquiry confirmed it was Pakistan. They said Pakistan had provided samples of enriched uranium that matched some of the traces found at Natanz and Kalaye.