Iran Can Now Enrich Stable Isotopes, Country's Atomic Agency Claims

Iran has developed the technology to enrich stable isotopes of elements other than uranium, according to the country's atomic energy agency. The country claimed late last year that it could enrich isotopes without help from Russia.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said the country's scientists had "mastered" stable isotope enrichment and had the software necessary to do so.

"We have acquired the science of stable isotope enrichment and its related technology," Salehi said, according to Iran's state-controlled Press TV.

"Our engineers and technicians have developed sophisticated software, one of which, for instance, consists of 300,000 lines of programming. Iranian experts are also in charge of designing arrangement of enrichment cascades for stable isotopes."

Salehi, who is a nuclear physicist, explained that Iran could now enrich isotopes from elements other than uranium.

"In addition to uranium, there are some other elements in the Mendeleev table that they have about 256 stable isotopes," Salehi said.

"In accordance with [the] uranium enrichment project we can enrich those elements.

"We are now using IR1 centrifuges to enrich stable isotopes such as tellurium and xenon on a pilot scale and we intend to take this to the industrial level.

"Although peaceful activities have always been challenges to the arrogant powers of the world, it [the AEOI] has always shone gloriously."

The State Department and the International Atomic Energy Agency have been asked for comment.

Iran has stepped up its uranium enrichment program after the Trump Administration pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to limit Tehran's nuclear activity over fears it was trying to develop atomic weapons.

Though other signatories to the deal have continued to honor it, including the E.U., Iran has been violating its terms since the U.S. withdrawal. Iran says its nuclear development is for civil purposes, not military.

In December 2019, Iran's atomic energy agency claimed it could now enrich isotopes without help from Russia. In that same month, the Russian government warned that the Iran nuclear deal was "in danger of falling apart."

"We can technically continue the work related to the production of stable isotopes without the Russians; however, politically-speaking, it would be better if Russians stay with us," said AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi on December 9.

"We are sure that the Russians will not abandon their projects in Iran in the wake of the U.S. sanctions, because they are currently involved in the construction of Bushehr-2 and -3 power plants."

Iran's new claims about its nuclear program come amid a report by Politico alleging that the country was considering assassinating the U.S. ambassador to South Africa in retaliation for the killing of General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in January.

An Iranian Flag at Bushehr Nuclear Plant
A picture taken on November 10, 2019, shows an Iranian flag in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor at the facility. - Bushehr is Iran's only nuclear power station and is currently running on imported fuel from Russia that is closely monitored by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has been violating the nuclear deal since the U.S. withdrawal. ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images