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 of Antiwar.com.