Iran's new enrichment modest, suggests IAEA
Vienna: Iran expects to produce its first batch of higher enriched uranium in a few days but its initial effort is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities, according to a confidential document.
But the document also indicated that Iran was keeping silent on whether or not it would ramp up production, which would bring it closer to the ability to produce the fissile core of nuclear weapons.
The internal International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) document was significant in being the first glimpse at Iran's plan to enrich uranium to 20 percent that did not rely on statements from Iranian officials.
Iran says it wants to enrich only up to that grade -- substantially below the 90 percent plus level used in the fissile core of nuclear warheads -- as a part of a plan to fuel its research reactor that provides medical isotopes to hundreds of thousands of Iranians undergoing cancer treatment.
But the West says Tehran is not capable of turning the material into the fuel rods needed by the reactor. Instead it fears that Iran wants to enrich the uranium to make nuclear weapons.
Iran denies such aspirations. But its move is viewed with concern internationally because it would create material that could then be processed into weapons-grade uranium more quickly and with less effort than Iran's present stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium.