UK Blasts Iranian Expansion of Uranium Enrichment

The top diplomat in the UK on Monday condemned the Iranian decision to launch uranium enrichment operations for nuclear fuel in their underground Fordo facility near the city of Qom. In a statement published on the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “extremely disappointed” and called the step a “provocative act.”

The Fordo facility is to be used to produce 20% enriched uranium, which the Iranians claim is needed for medical research. The West suspects the Iranians to be interested in nuclear weapons. Hague publicly doubted Iran’s claims the nuclear fuel enrichment effort is for peaceful purposes.

While the 20% enrichment falls short of the 90% needed for nuclear weapons, it is a significant step towards military-grade fuel. Further enrichment to 90% would still be needed for it to be used in a nuclear bomb.

Hague noted that Iran already has enough nuclear fuel to run the research reactor for more than five years and has yet to take additional steps necessary to make full use of the enriched uranium.

“Iran can provide no credible rationale for producing so much 20% enriched uranium,” said Hague. “Its claim to be enriching for the Tehran Research Reactor does not stand up to serious scrutiny.”

The British diplomat also highlighted the suspicious nature of the Fordo facility itself, pointing out Iran announced its existence in 2009 after it was discovered by the West. Said Hague of the facility, “Its size, location, and clandestine nature raise serious questions about its ultimate purpose.”

In addition to slamming the Iranians, Hague also urged Tehran to “engage seriously” with the international community represented by the P5+1 group—the United States, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. He also called upon Iran to “stop immediately” its 20% uranium enrichment.

Said Hague of the Fordo step, “At a time when the international community is asking Iran to provide assurances of the peaceful nature of its program, this is a provocative act which further undermines Iran’s claims that its program is entirely civilian in nature… If Iran has nothing to hide, it should seek every opportunity to reassure the international community of its peaceful intentions.”

Europe is currently considering further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, including possible restrictions on crude oil imports from the Islamic Republic. Hague hinted at the threat of additional sanctions—without being specific—noting that if Iran does not address the international community’s concerns, “international pressure on Iran will only increase further.”

(By Staff,, January 9, 2012)