Wednesday, April 25, 2018

U.N. says Iran stepping up uranium enrichment at underground plant

Iran more than doubled its production rate for a more highly enriched form of uranium in recent months, U.N. inspectors reported Thursday, suggesting the country's nuclear facilities were ramping up production even as its leaders engaged in international negotiations on possible curbs to its nuclear program.

The reported surge in output — most of it taking place in a new nuclear facility built into the side of a mountain — appeared to underscore a determination by Iranian officials to expand nuclear production despite unprecedented economic sanctions and a threatened military strike by Israel.

U.N. nuclear officials who regularly monitor Iran's facilities documented a jump of 60 percent in Iran's total stockpile of so-called medium-enriched uranium, from 159 pounds in mid May to 255 pounds in mid August. But the rate of production since May has more than doubled, as more than 300 new gas centrifuges were added to Iran's underground plant near the city of Qom, inspectors confirmed.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which produced the report, chided the Islamic republic for failing to comply with U.N. resolutions. The IAEA said Iran has not provided convincing assurances about the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program.

"U.N. officials also criticized Iran for refusing to grant IAEA inspectors access to facilities where Iranian scientists are suspected to have carried out nuclear-weapons related experiments in the past.

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