VIENNA, Austria – Iran has pumped out about seven tons of the gas it needs for uranium enrichment since it restarted the process last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Friday. A former U.N. nuclear inspector said that would be enough for an atomic weapon.
In unusually strong language, an IAEA report also said that despite its investigation, questions remain about key aspects of Iran’s 18 years of clandestine nuclear activity and that it still was unable “to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.”
“Iran’s full transparency is indispensable and overdue,” said the confidential document obtained by the Associated Press. The document listed perceived Iranian failings and called for “access to individuals, documentation related to procurement … certain military-owned workshops and research and development locations.”
Among the unanswered questions, according to the report, were gaps in the documented development of Iran’s centrifuge program used in uranium enrichment – and in what was received, and when, from the black market network headed by the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
Overall, the report confirmed recent revelations that most of the traces of weapons-grade uranium were imported on equipment from Pakistan that Iran bought on the black market – even though the report said it was not possible to determine the origins of other traces enriched to less than weapons grade.
Iranian state television quoted Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani as saying the conclusion showed that the country’s nuclear program is “completely peaceful and has never been diverted to illegal activities.”
But the key issue in the report was uranium conversion – changing raw uranium into gas that then is spun by centrifuges into enriched uranium.
The report, prepared by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, said Iran had produced about 15,000 pounds of uranium hexafluoride, the gaseous feed stock that is spun by centrifuge into enriched uranium. Depending on the level of enrichment, that substance can be used either as a source of power or as the core of nuclear weapons.
But David Albright, a former IAEA nuclear inspector, said that were Tehran to use the material for weapons purposes, it would be enough for one atomic bomb.