The West must be afraid of plutonium in Iran

Iran’s former nuclear chief who is a member of parliament said the Islamic Republic should produce plutonium in addition to enriching uranium to 90%.

Fereydoun Abbasi, Member of the Parliamentary Energy Committee, said on Saturday that Iran should enrich uranium not just at 60% – the highest level currently reached – but at 90% and more. Uranium enriched to 90% is only used to make nuclear bombs.

But what seemed like a direct threat amid nuclear talks with the West was Abbasi’s statement that Iran should also produce plutonium.

“Western countries must be afraid of plutonium in Iran. We want plutonium for power generation, not for weapons, and it must be available in the country,” he said, adding that “we must keep the enriched materials.” Abbasi went on to say that Iran must do these things publicly and under the supervision of the agency.

The indirect talks between the United States and Iran since April 2021 to revive the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have reached a critical stage, as Iran has hardened its position in recent days and insists on its remaining claims.

Tehran is asking for American guarantees both for the sustainability of a new agreement and on issues related to sanctions. In addition, Tehran also demands the closure of an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into its past undeclared activities.

Iran’s plutonium production was banned outright under the JCPOA in 2015. Under the deal, a plutonium heavy-water reactor Tehran was building in Arak was dismantled and its core filled with concrete. Plutonium produced from spent fuel from uranium reactors is the easiest way to make nuclear bombs.

Abbasi had previously said that the highly enriched uranium fissile material was to be used “both for scientific research and for making nuclear fuel for submarines”.

On September 1, another lawmaker and commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Esmail Kowsari said“We can turn the enrichment rate from 60% to 93%, which means an atomic bomb, and although we are not looking for that, we have the ability to do that if the other side is slow to move” for revive the historic nuclear agreement.

July 17, Kamal Kharrazi, Senior Advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Iran had the technical capability to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran began enriching uranium beyond the 3.67% cap set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2019, a year after the United States left the 2015 agreement. and imposed “maximum pressure” sanctions. There are no civilian uses for 90% enriched uranium, including research and medical isotopes that would require up to 20% enriched uranium. Iran also has no nuclear submarines and 90% is widely believed to be weapons-grade fissile material.

In its nuclear strategy since early 2021, Iran has also severely restricted IAEA surveillance by first denying real-time access and then disconnecting cameras and special equipment. During this period, Tehran is believed to have accumulated enough enriched uranium to easily transition to 90% enriched fissile material, sufficient for one or two nuclear bombs.

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