Iran Nuclear NewsIran atomic breakthrough claim undermined - diplomats

Iran atomic breakthrough claim undermined – diplomats

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Reuters: Iranian claims last month of a major nuclear breakthrough were undermined on Thursday when several diplomats said the uranium Tehran had enriched was high-quality processed uranium it acquired from China. VIENNA (Reuters) – Iranian claims last month of a major nuclear breakthrough were undermined on Thursday when several diplomats said the uranium Tehran had enriched was high-quality processed uranium it acquired from China.

Last month Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had joined the “nuclear club” by enriching uranium to a level useable in nuclear power plants and made it clear that it had been the result of Iranian scientists’ technical skills.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later confirmed Iran had successfully enriched uranium but diplomats in Vienna familiar with the agency’s work said the processed uranium, uranium hexafluoride (UF6), that Iran purified was almost certainly higher-quality Chinese UF6 and not Iranian.

“It’s pretty clear that Iran enriched UF6 it acquired from China in 1991, not the lower-quality UF6 Iran has produced,” said a Vienna diplomat on condition of anonymity.

“There is not a clear and present danger from the Iranian nuclear programme. They’re not as advanced as some countries think,” he added.

The sale would have come shortly before China joined the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1992, binding Beijing to strict export controls.

Diplomats have said that Iran has had difficulty producing good quality UF6. In September the material was of such poor quality that it would have damaged the centrifuges — machines that enrich uranium — had it been used, diplomats said.

A diplomat from the European Union accredited to the IAEA said that Iran had probably chosen to use the better Chinese UF6 to hasten the process so that Ahmadinejdad could announce to the world without delay that Iran had enriched uranium.

“Their announcement was a bit of a fraud, because they had to use someone else’s uranium. But there’s no doubt that Iran has the ability to enrich uranium and that’s what we’re worried about,” the EU diplomat said.

However, he said it was clear Iran lacked confidence in its ability to produce UF6, a key element in the nuclear fuel cycle.

“I’m not aware that they’ve fed their own material in yet,” another EU diplomat said.

Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium for use in nuclear power plants or, when very highly enriched, in bombs.

The EU and United States believe Iran is secretly developing atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy programme. Iran says its programme is solely aimed at the peaceful generation of electricity.

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