In their last report before the U.N. Security Council votes on sanctions, international nuclear inspectors declared Monday that Iran has produced a stockpile of nuclear fuel that experts say would be enough, with further enrichment, to make two nuclear weapons.
The report, by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a branch of the United Nations, appears likely to bolster the Obama administration's case for a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran and further diminish its interest in a deal, recently revived by Turkey and Brazil, in which Iran would send a portion of its nuclear stockpile out of the country.
When Iran tentatively agreed eight months ago to ship some of its nuclear material out of the country, the White House said the deal would temporarily deprive Iran of enough fuel to make even a single weapon. But Iran delayed for months, and the figures contained in the inspectors' report Monday indicated that even if Iran now shipped the agreed-upon amount of nuclear material out of the country, it would retain enough for a single weapon, undercutting the American rationale for the deal.
The toughly worded report says Iran has expanded work at one of its nuclear sites. It also describes, step by step, how inspectors have been denied access to a series of facilities, and how Iran has refused to answer inspectors' questions on a variety of activities, including what the agency called the "possible existence" of "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
The report said Iran has produced more than 5,300 pounds of low-enriched uranium, all of which would have to undergo further enrichment before it could be converted to bomb fuel.
Iran has sought to locate many of its nuclear facilities in underground sites so as to lessen their vulnerability to aerial attacks. In the new report, the inspectors said that the Iranians disclosed that a new analytical laboratory slated for construction amid a warren of tunnels at Isfahan "would have the same functions as the existing" unprotected laboratory there.
The report quoted an Iranian letter as saying the second, underground laboratory was needed "to meet security measures."