The Iranian Foreign Ministry claimed on Tuesday that its rapidly growing stockpile of high-grade enriched uranium is intended for “completely humanitarian and peaceful use,” including “the best quality radiomedicine.”
The Iranians were responding to concerns from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, about Tehran’s rapid escalation of uranium enrichment. The head of the IAEA implied it would be a matter of weeks, not months, before Iran irrevocably crossed the threshold into weapons-grade uranium refinement.
On Saturday, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – the remaining Western signatories to the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – issued a statement of “deep concern” about Iran’s surging uranium enrichment.
“Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal. The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran committed to not engaging in production of uranium metal or conducting research and development on uranium metallurgy for 15 years,” the statement said.
Iran’s state-run Fars news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh saying on Tuesday it needs all this hastily-enriched uranium for entirely peaceful purposes and claimed Iran’s plans for stepping up refinement were disclosed to the IAEA years ago:
[Khatibzadeh] explained that in the process of producing silicide fuel, metal uranium is an intermediate product, and said, “The design information questionnaire of Isfahan Metal Uranium Plant has not been submitted to the Agency yet and it will be performed after making the necessary arrangements and within the deadline set by rules and regulations.”
Khatibzadeh criticized the “baseless” hues and cries about Iran’s decision, and said, “Metal uranium also has peaceful uses, and some countries are now using metal uranium-based fuel for their reactors which does not violate the NPT and the safeguards undertakings.”
“At the same time, this technology is a requirement for Iran which should provide its patients with the best quality radiomedicine, and it has a completely humanitarian and peaceful use,” he added.
As the statement from France, Germany, and the U.K. stressed, there are no civilian activities that absolutely require uranium enriched to the levels Iran has reached. This includes radiomedicine, which has employed uranium for medical scans in the past, but no longer requires it. The JCPOA, which Iran is aggressively violating, made extensive provisions for Iran’s medical needs.
On Sunday, Iran commanded the IAEA to stop publicizing “unnecessary details” about its nuclear program to “prevent paving ground for misunderstanding” about its true intentions. Iran frequently threatens to eject all IAEA inspectors if the organization does not accept its demands, no matter what the JCPOA says about inspections.