Rouhani: Iran Could Enrich Uranium to 90% If Needed

Iran has never attempted enrichment to this level

Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani made comments that risk serious misunderstanding Wednesday, claiming that Iran could enrich uranium to 90% purity if they had a need to do so. 90% is considered weapons-grade.

Rouhani was neither threatening to do so, nor suggesting Iran was going to make weapons. Indeed, his comments included the caveat that they would only be doing it on “the peaceful path” for use in a hypothetical reactor, though this explanation was only mentioned in some media reports on his statements.

Weapons weren’t really on the table in the first place. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei long ago declared nuclear arms haram, making it religiously forbidden to even try to make them.

On top of this, the hypothetical reactor that needs 90% uranium simply doesn’t exist. Iran’s enrichment needs are generally in the 3% range, with the 50+ year old Tehran Research Reactor using 20% purity fuel. Iran’s parliament ordered enrichment to 60% to protest Israeli sabotage efforts, but even that level had no apparent use, and presumably Iran is just going to have to dilute it back down to use it for anything.

Given that, it is scarcely worth Rouhani having brought it up. It may be intended to bolster Western interest in restoring the nuclear deal, which would cap enrichment levels.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of