IAEA, Iran in Talks Over Highly-Enriched Uranium Finding

Production appears to be an unintentional result of reconfiguration

The IAEA is turning up its latest concerns about Iran’s civilian nuclear program with media reports of a discovery of uranium enriched to 84% purity, by far the highest enrichment level to come out of Iran.

Iran is known to be producing uranium of up to 60% purity, and it should be noted that weapons grade is in excess of 90%. Thus, neither the 60% stockpile, nor these 84% particles, are actually a proliferation risk for atomic weapons.

The expected spin is that this newer top-line enrichment level is closer to 90%, therefore representing a big change. The misunderstanding is that the existence of 84% purity particles does not imply overall enrichment to that level.

It seems that no deliberate enrichment above 60% has taken place, and Iranian authorities confirms their operations are still set to 60% enrichment and below. So where did the 84% come from?

That’s still being looked into, but the IAEA suggests “it was a blip in the reconfigured cascades” when Iran set them to 60%. Iran and the IAEA are still in talks to figure it out.

Either way, the production of 84% particles was a one-off. They were not weapons-grade to begin with, and the Iranians don’t seem to be making effort to replicate that enrichment process, even if they suspected doing so was practical. It is effectively a fluke, and does not indicate any escalation of the process.

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.