The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that Iran has started the production of uranium enriched up to 20 percent in its underground Fordo Fuel Enrichment plant near the city of Qom.
Iran’s refusal to comply with its international nuclear obligations, including the obligation to suspend all uranium enrichment, has led to four rounds of economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations Security Council. Additional bi-lateral penalties have been applied by a host of countries, including Australia, Japan, the U.S., the European Union and South Korea.
Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear fuel, but it can also be used to develop nuclear weapons. Uranium enriched to 20 percent significantly cuts down the time needed to enrich uranium to weapons grade level.
Iran’s nuclear program has caused grave international concern, because contrary to its nuclear obligations, Iran pursued a secret uranium enrichment program for decades, and has defied repeated U.N. Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions to suspend enrichment. That concern increased when the IAEA in its most recent report said there was credible evidence that Iran has carried out activities “relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the move by Iran to begin enrichment operations at the Fordo plant. “This step once again demonstrates the Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for its responsibilities and that the country’s growing isolation is self-inflicted,” she said in a statement.
“Iran claims that this decision was necessary to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, the TRR. This is false,” Secretary Clinton said. She noted that the P5+1 group – Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany – offered alternatives for providing fuel for the TRR, which Iran refused.
“We call upon Iran to immediately cease uranium enrichment and to comply with its international nuclear obligations,” said Secretary of State Clinton. “We also call on Iran to return to negotiations with the P5+1, prepared to engage seriously on its nuclear program. ... We reaffirm that our overall goal remains a comprehensive, negotiated solution that restores confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy consistent with its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.”