Iran has ‘virtually halted’ uranium enrichment expansion, IAEA says
VIENNA // Iran has virtually halted a previously rapid expansion of its uranium enrichment capacity in the past three months, the UN nuclear agency said in a report roughly covering the period since Hassan Rouhani became president.
The quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also showed that Iran’s stockpile of higher-grade enriched uranium - closely watched by the West and Israel - had risen by about 5 per cent to 196 kilograms since August.
But it remained below the roughly 250kg needed for a bomb if refined further. Iran denies western and Israeli accusations that it is seeking nuclear weapons capability, saying it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy.
The quarterly IAEA report - scrutinised by western governments - was the first that included developments only since Mr Rouhani, a relative moderate, took office on August 3, prompting a diplomatic opening during which Iran and six world powers have made progress towards ending a standoff over its nuclear activity.
The IAEA said Iran had installed only four first-generation centrifuges - machines used to refine uranium - at its Natanz plant since August, making a total of 15,240. In the previous three-month period, May-August, it installed more than 1,800. Not all of the installed centrifuges are operating.
Mr Rouhani succeeded bellicose hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August, promising to try to settle the decade-old nuclear dispute and secure an easing of sanctions that have severely damaged Iran’s oil-dependent economy.
Updated: November 14, 2013 04:00 AM