Iran to Begin Enriching Uranium for Medical Reactor

Still Holds Out Hope for Third-Party Enrichment Deal

Speaking at a Laser Science exhibition in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced today that his country will begin the production of highly enriched uranium for its medical reactor.

At present Iran has been enriching uranium only to 3.5 percent, the level needed for use in its Bushehr nuclear power plant. The Tehran medical reactor will require 20 percent enriched uranium, a significant increase but still well short of the levels needed for weapons.

Ahmadinejad ordered the production to begin but officials have not yet given a date. Iran’s state media reports that Iran is running out of medical isotopes, which forced the decision, but officials still say they hold out hope for a third party enrichment deal.

Western officials are widely expected to use the increase in enrichment levels as an excuse to press for additional sanctions against Iran. Since Western officials were already pushing for more sanctions before the announcement, however, it is unclear if it will have any practical effect.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.