DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – Iranian state television yesterday offered an extended defence against an accusation attributed to international inspectors that it enriched uranium to 84 per cent purity, with an official calling it part of a “conspiracy” against Tehran amid tensions over its nuclear programme.
The comments by a spokesman for Iran’s civilian nuclear programme Behrouz Kamalvandi, sought to portray any detection of uranium particles enriched to that level as a momentary side effect of trying to reach a finished product of 60 per cent purity – which Tehran already has announced producing.
However, uranium at 84 per cent is at nearly weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent – meaning any stockpile of that material could be quickly used to produce an atomic bomb if Iran chooses.
Tehran long has insisted its programme is for peaceful purposes, though the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Western intelligence agencies and nonproliferation experts say Iran pursued a secret nuclear weapons programme up until 2003.
The allegation IAEA inspectors found 84 per cent enriched uranium threatens to further escalate tensions between Iran and the West. Already, Israel’s recently reinstalled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened military actions against Tehran.
Bloomberg first reported on Sunday that inspectors had detected uranium particles enriched up to 84 per cent.
The IAEA, a United Nations agency based in Vienna, has not denied the report, saying only “that the IAEA is discussing with Iran the results of recent agency verification activities”.
In an interview with Iranian state television’s English-language arm, Press TV highlighted yesterday, Kamalvandi dismissed what inspectors may have found as “a particle of an atom that cannot be seen even under a microscope”. He described Iran’s uranium centrifuge cascades as producing particles at varying purity that later form a final product of 60 per cent.
“It doesn’t matter because the end product is what matters,” Kamalvandi said. “If we really want to enrich 20 per cent more, we will announce it very easily. So it is clear that there is a conspiracy here.”
Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal limited Tehran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67 per cent – enough to fuel a nuclear power plant. The United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018.
Since then, a shadow war between Israel and Iran has erupted across the wider Middle East.
Iran now produces uranium enriched to 60 per cent purity – a level at which non-proliferation experts already say Tehran has no civilian use.