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IAEA says Iran has built up stockpile of nuclear fuel

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Latest update : 2009-02-20

The chief of the government watchdog IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, said that although Iran has slowed the expansion of its uranium enrichment plant, it has nonetheless increased radium refineriesz.

REUTERS - Iran has slowed the expansion of
its uranium enrichment plant but has built up a stockpile of
nuclear fuel, an International Atomic Energy Agency report said
on Thursday.

The U.N. watchdog said Iran had increased the number of
centrifuges refining uranium, a process that can produce fuel
for civilian energy or atom bombs, by only 136 from 3,800 in

"We see the pace of installing and bringing centrifuges into
operation has slowed quite considerably since August," a senior
U.N. official said.

But Iran's reported stockpile of low-enriched uranium had
risen to 1,010 kg from 630 kg in November and 480 kg in August.
The heightened output rate suggested existing centrifuges were
operating at higher capacity and more glitch-free than before.

The United States urged Iran to give up its enrichment
activities and said Tehran's refusal to respond constructively
to IAEA requests over its program was "deeply troubling".

"We view this report as another opportunity lost to resolve
international concerns," U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon
Duguid told reporters in Washington.

"Absent Iranian compliance with its international nuclear
obligations and transparency with the IAEA, the international
community cannot have confidence in the exclusively peaceful
nature of Iran's nuclear program," he said.

Iran says it is producing nuclear fuel only for civil
nuclear energy. Western powers, frustrated by restrictions on
IAEA inspections, suspect otherwise.

Western non-proliferation analysts estimate from 1,000 to
1,700 kg would be needed as a basis for conversion into
high-enriched uranium to make one bomb and Tehran could reach
that threshold within a few months.

But it would take Iran another two to five years before it
was capable of producing nuclear weapons, IAEA director Mohamed
ElBaradei said this week.

The report said Iran was still boycotting IAEA inspectors
looking into Western allegations of past covert atom bomb



As long as Iran continued to withhold access to
documentation, Iranian officials and sites, the IAEA would be
unable to verify whether Iranian nuclear activity was peaceful
or not, it said.

Tehran says the mainly U.S. intelligence was forged.

Progress in the IAEA inquiry, which Iran regards as driven
by U.S. pressure, looks unlikely before Iran sees what U.S.
President Barack Obama has to offer under his offer of direct
talks with adversaries.

The IAEA report said aside from the 3,936 centrifuges
actively enriching uranium, another 1,476 were undergoing tests
without nuclear material in them, and 125 more had been
installed but remained stationary.

ElBaradei said on Tuesday Iran had not added as many
centrifuges recently as it could have and the reason was
probably political rather than technical.

He was alluding to perceptions Iran may want to give Obama
political cover for talks, not provoke harsher U.N. sanctions
over its refusal to suspend enrichment.

Iran's IAEA ambassador, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said he saw no
slackening in Iran's nuclear drive because "you have to see the
whole package", including tests at a pilot plant of an advanced
centrifuge model able to enrich uranium much faster.

He rejected accusations of non-cooperation with the IAEA,
saying it was not legally obliged to do so.

The IAEA report said Iran was barring inspectors from doing
checks at its planned Arak heavy water reactor.

Iran had built built a dome at Arak which made it impossible
to use satellite imagery to monitor building.

Western powers fear Iran may use the Arak reactor to derive
plutonium from spent fuel rods as another source of atom bomb
fuel. Tehran says the complex will be designed to produce
isotopes for medicine and agriculture.

Date created : 2009-02-20