Reuters: Iran rejected Friday U.S. reports it had enriched enough uranium to make an atom bomb, saying this would require steps it had ruled out like ejecting U.N. inspectors and leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
By Mark Heinrich
VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran rejected Friday U.S. reports it had enriched enough uranium to make an atom bomb, saying this would require steps it had ruled out like ejecting U.N. inspectors and leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
An International Atomic Energy Agency report this week said Iran had stockpiled 630 kg (1,385 pounds) of low-enriched uranium so far, an amount U.S. analysts quoted by the New York Times said was enough to upgrade into a nuclear weapon.
Western powers believe Iran's declared program to refine uranium to the low level required for civilian nuclear energy is a front for gaining the means to reprocess it into high-enriched material for bombs at short notice.
The Islamic Republic is under U.N. sanctions for refusing to halt enrichment and restricting IAEA efforts to check Western intelligence suggesting it has researched how to weaponize enrichment. Tehran says the intelligence was fabricated.
Iran's envoy to the IAEA said that for Iran to militarize enrichment operations would require a complex, time-consuming reconfiguration of the process that inspectors could not fail to notice unless they were kicked out.
"This information has no technical basis and gives a wrong and misleading information to the public," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters after an IAEA briefing about the report provided for its 35-nation Board of Governors.
"In Natanz (main enrichment plant), all material produced goes into a closed container sealed by IAEA seals and watched by cameras. As soon as anyone wanted to touch the seals, the next second the whole world would know," he said.
"Because of this it is absolutely impossible to rearrange and use this low-enriched uranium to turn into high-enriched. It means stopping inspections, stopping cameras and coming out of the NPT, and we will not do that," he said.
"This is a very careful policy of Iran and we have disappointed the Bush administration. We will neither suspend our enrichment nor our full cooperation with the IAEA."
U.N. officials and Western diplomats say that the IAEA cannot rule out Iran enriching at another, secret location since Tehran bars short-notice IAEA inspections anywhere beyond its few declared facilities.
Internal IAEA estimates of how much enriched uranium Iran would need to reprocess for bomb fuel are more conservative — around 1,700 kg (3,740 pounds).
"(That is more likely) because of wastage and inefficiencies, especially for newcomers and one-off weapons," said Mark Fitzpatrick, non-proliferation analyst at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.