February 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

Without Evidence, Iran Denies Reports It Enriched Uranium to Near Weapons-Grade

February 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

Without Evidence, Iran Denies Reports It Enriched Uranium to Near Weapons-Grade

Latest Developments

Iran yesterday and today denied reports attributed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by diplomatic sources that Tehran had enriched uranium to 84 percent purity — just short of weapons-grade levels of 90 percent — at the Fordow underground facility. A news website linked to the regime said on Thursday that Iran’s nuclear program is “completely peaceful” and described the allegations as an “inspector’s error” or “a deliberate action to create political atmospheres against Iran.” Today, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s civilian nuclear program, called the accusation a “conspiracy,” saying inspectors merely found “a particle of an atom that cannot be seen even under a microscope.”

Expert Analysis

“Washington must lead its partners in penalizing Iran and censuring the regime’s latest action at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, which begins on March 6. Failing to act swiftly would suggest that the West will tolerate further enrichment advances, including Tehran potentially stockpiling atomic weapons-grade uranium.” Andrea Stricker, Deputy Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

Not an Accident

In light of Tehran’s long record of nuclear mendacity, Iran’s denials are not credible. It is unlikely that Iran’s enrichment levels would have accidentally fluctuated to 84 percent. As Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director general for safeguards at the IAEA, put it, “Such things do not happen accidentally. It takes some effort to modify a cascade to produce this level of enrichment.” Inspectors likely caught Tehran experimenting with higher enrichment levels approaching atomic weapons-grade, even if the higher enrichment happened in intermediate enrichment steps and did not accumulate as a stockpile.

Iran’s Atomic Advances

Since entering office in January 2021, the Biden administration has presided over numerous qualitative Iranian nuclear advances, as Tehran capitalized on reduced pressure and the West’s fruitless effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In January 2021, Iran resumed 20 percent enrichment at Fordow for the first time since the JCPOA’s finalization. In April 2021, Tehran enriched uranium to 60 percent purity. The same year, Iran also produced uranium metal, a material used in nuclear weapon cores. Over the course of 2021 and 2022, Iran installed thousands of fast advanced centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Iran is now weeks away from producing enough weapons-grade uranium for four atomic bombs.

Related Analysis

Iran Enriching Uranium to Near Weapons-Grade,” FDD Flash Brief

Exploiting America’s Declining Pressure: Iran’s Nuclear Escalation Over Time,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Andrea Stricker


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