IAEA reported today that Iran had temporarily halted its uranium enrichment work earlier this month. The agency’s inspectors visiting the country’s enrichment unit at Natanz on 16 November observed that none of the cascades, normally comprising 164 centrifuges, were being fed with UF6 (uranium hexaflouride) to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU).
It was not immediately clear when the outage had started, but the Iranian authorities informed IAEA on Monday that 28 cascades were enriching uranium again [AFP & Reuters, 23 November].
Iran’s director of Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi today denied media reports that the outage might have been linked to the Stuxnet worm [ISNA, 23 November]. Some experts believe a technical problem could have been the cause.
Despite the temporary halt in uranium enrichment, IAEA report indicates that Iran's total output of LEU has reached 3,183 kilograms (7003 pounds), suggesting steady production in recent months. The country’s inventory of 20-percent enriched uranium has reached 33 kilos.
Meantime, the US today criticized Iran for its "continued failure" to cooperate with IAEA, after the report by the agency said Iran was still refusing to halt uranium enrichment.