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Iran increasing nuclear stockpile while cooperating: IAEA

AFP | Vienna                                                                

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Iran has significantly increased its stockpile of enriched uranium in recent months, continuing its nuclear escalation, a confidential report by the UN nuclear watchdog revealed yesterday.

The agency, however, noted progress in its cooperation with Iran in a separate report saying it has decided to close the file on nuclear material at an undeclared site, an issue which has long exacerbated relations between the two parties.

The two confidential reports come days before the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to meet to review progress in addressing the watchdog’s remaining concerns.

The nuclear watchdog said in its quarterly report that Iran’s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium had reached more than 23 times the limit set out in the landmark 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers.

As of 13 May, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was estimated at 4,744.5 kilograms (10,459 pounds). The limit in the 2015 deal was 202.8 kilograms. The report also said that Iran is continuing its enrichment of uranium to levels higher than the 3.67 percent limit in the deal.

Efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal - which was left in tatters by the unilateral withdrawal of the US in 2018 - have stalled since last summer. The stockpile of uranium enriched up to 20 percent is now believed to be 470.9 kilograms - up 36.2 kg since the last report in February - while the amount enriched up to 60 percent stands at 114.1 kilograms, an increase of 26.6 kg.

Enrichment levels of around 90 percent are required for use in a nuclear weapon.

Monitoring equipment

Meanwhile, the IAEA has been able to reinstall some monitoring equipment set up under the 2015 nuclear deal - but which was later removed by Iran - the reports said.

“Iran has allowed the agency to install monitoring equipment at two declared enrichment facilities,” it said. Some additional surveillance cameras were also installed at workshops in Esfahan where “centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows are manufactured”.

However, the agency said it awaits Iran’s engagement to address “the completion of the installation of surveillance and monitoring equipment, access to data recordings and the gaps in the recordings.”

On the detection of uranium particles enriched to near bomb-grade at the Fordo plant, the IAEA said it has “no further questions on the matter” for now. “The Agency assessed that the information provided (by Iran) was not inconsistent with Iran’s explanation for the origin of these particles,” the report said.