Friday, June 22, 2007

Latest Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Iranian interior minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi today reported that Iran now has 3,000 centrifuges in operation and has already produced and warehoused over 100 kilogram of enriched uranium (ISNA, 22 June 2007).

Pourmohammadi was most probably referring to 100 kg of low enriched uranium (LEU) produced at Natanz. LEU is a form of uranium enriched to contain more than 3.5% U-235. LEU is normally used as the fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran, however, does not have any operational nuclear power plants. The plant at Bushehr, if and when completed, requires LEU that would be supplied by Russia.

LEU can also be used as stockfeed to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU), containing 90% U-235. In terms of enrichment work, the 3.5% material is already most of the way to 90% uranium. HEU is primarily used to build uranium bomb.

The 100 kg stock of LEU reported by Pourmohammadi can be re-enriched to produce more than 60 kg of HEU, enough for an atomic bomb.

In a related development, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Thursday told Michael Hirsh of Newsweek that Iran would take a “longer stride” in its nuclear program if facing a third sanction by the UN Security Council. When asked what the longer stride would be, Larijani said that it will be announced later (Newsweek online, 21 June 2007).

P.S. The interior ministry this afternoon denied ISNA’s report on the statement made by Mr. Pourmohammadi. ISNA is an Iranian news agency based in Tehran. Mr. Larijani’s office, however, has not yet denied the Newsweek story.

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