March 4 (UPI) — Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium since November, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said Thursday.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had stockpiled more than 1,020 kilograms of low-enriched uranium as of Feb. 19, up from 372 kilograms on Nov. 3, and that it had increased the number of machines it was using to enrich uranium, allowing for faster production of nuclear fuel.
The totals surpassed the limit of 202.8 kilograms allowed under a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, which the United States backed out of in May 2018.
The material was enriched as high as 4.5 percent purity, but more than half was below that level. Iran has said it would only enrich beyond 5 percent if it had some technical need for the material.
Analysts have said the increased stockpile and faster rate of enrichment has reduced the “breakout time” — the period Iran would need to acquire a nuclear bomb from about one year when the accord took effect to just more than three months.
In addition to stockpiling uranium, Iran would require a nuclear warhead and guidance system to be capable of mounting a nuclear missile strike.
The IAEA found no evidence that Iran was taking specific steps toward nuclear weapons production and Iran has said its nuclear program is in service of peaceful, civilian purposes.
A separate IAEA report stated that Iran has raised “serious concern” by refusing to allow inspectors to access two sites and rejecting its requests to take samples at the sites in order to see if they had been used to store nuclear material or conduct other nuclear-related activities.
Last year the agency found unexplained traces of enriched uranium after taking samples at a site in Tehran and has since repeatedly observed activities “consistent with efforts to sanitize” the site.