VIENNA: Iran has once again heightened concerns over its nuclear programme as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports an increase in its uranium stockpile, enriched to levels dangerously close to weapons-grade.
The confidential quarterly report, distributed to member states, discloses that as of October 28, Iran possesses an estimated 128.3 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 60 percent purity, a significant rise of 6.7 kilograms since the September report. This brings the total enriched uranium stockpile to 4,486.8 kilograms, marking an increase of 691.3 kilograms.
Uranium enriched at 60 percent purity is a mere technical step away from reaching weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. The IAEA report underscores the potential gravity of the situation and raises questions about Iran’s adherence to international agreements.
The report also sheds light on Iran’s resistance to the IAEA’s objections regarding the ban on some inspectors designated to monitor the country’s nuclear program. Despite ongoing efforts to ensure transparency and accountability, Iran has yet to address the origin and current location of manmade uranium particles found at undisclosed sites, named as Varamin and Turquzabad.
In a separate development, Iran’s decision to remove monitoring equipment, including cameras, has hindered the IAEA’s ability to effectively oversee the nuclear program. The report highlights the lack of progress in reinstating the monitoring equipment, removed by Iran in June 2022, leading to heightened tensions and a standoff between the IAEA and Iranian authorities.
The United States, Britain, France, and Germany have criticized Iran for its actions, leading to the withdrawal of experienced IAEA inspectors. In response, Iran’s head of the civilian nuclear program, Mohammad Eslami, defended the decision, stating that it is within Iran’s rights to de-designate agency inspectors. Eslami asserted that the IAEA’s concerns lacked legal basis but expressed a willingness to explore possibilities to address the ban on inspectors.
As tensions in the Middle East continue to escalate, the latest IAEA reports underscore the urgency of addressing the growing challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear activities. The international community faces the critical task of ensuring diplomatic solutions to prevent further deterioration of the situation.