IAEA Chief Falsely Claims Iran Could Fuel ‘Several Nuclear Weapons’

Iran still has no weapons-grade uranium

In comments made to EU lawmakers this week, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi tried to raise the alarm about Iran’s civilian nuclear program, claiming that Iran could, if it so chose, fuel “several” nuclear weapons from its existing stockpile.

This accusation is a continuation of Grossi’s past suggestions, fueling immediate media frenzy about a proliferation threat, and showing a flagrant lack of understanding for the facts of a nuclear program, let alone the status of Iran’s stockpile.

Under the suspended JCPOA nuclear deal, Iran was to send excess uranium from its stockpile abroad to keep it from growing too large. With the US not in the deal, no one is taking that excess uranium, and the stockpile just keeps growing steadily, with some 70 kg of 60% purity uranium amassed at this point.

The important facts of the case, however, are more practical, and generally ignored in the press. The term “weapons-grade uranium” refers to uranium which could be used in an atomic weapon, and is of a minimum of 90% purity.

Iran’s highest level of enrichment, even years after JCPOA fell apart, is still only 60%, well short of weapons-grade. Iran has never even attempted to produce uranium more highly enriched than this, and its much-vaunted stockpile subsequently includes no weapons-grade uranium to fuel any weapons at all.

The IAEA is no doubt aware of all of this, but consistently presents the “highly enriched uranium” (HEU) of 60% as a problem. This both parrots US efforts to spin anything Iran does as a threat, and ignores the US role in the stockpile being so large in size in the first place. At the end of the day, 60% uranium is still no direct proliferation risk without substantial further processing, which Iran has neither attempted nor itself proven capable of.

These IAEA comments are always spun as warnings about Iran. It would be more reasonable to make this concern about the United States and the rest of the P5+1’s inability to get America back into compliance with the JCPOA. Iran has shown all the willingness in the world to get back into the deal if the other nations do, but the US has resisted, and that’s delaying the entire process, leaving the current status quo in place. 60% uranium keeps being produced but has nowhere to go other than the stockpile.

Rather than the US being induced to get the JCPOA back on track, the Biden Administration has responded with more sanctions to punish Iran, though ironically Iran isn’t in violation of any existing agreements since the US blew apart the only material deal on nuclear enrichment.

The IAEA comments risk further harming the environment for more sideline talks with Iran on monitoring, and giving the EU parliament the impression that this is an Iran problem, and not a problem with saving the JCPOA from the United States.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. 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.