Uranium Enrichment : Iran
Iran’s atomic agency said that its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached over 210 kilograms.
- In April 2021, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had begun the process of enriching uranium to 60% fissile purity at an above-ground nuclear plant at Natanz.
- Under the historic 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the World Powers, Iran was not meant to enrich uranium above 3.67%. Enriched uranium above 90% can be used for nuclear weapons.
- Natural uranium consists of two different isotopes – nearly 99% U-238 and only around 0.7% of U-235.
- U-235 is a fissile material that can sustain a chain reaction in a nuclear reactor.
- Enrichment process increases the proportion of U-235 through the process of isotope separation (U-238 is separated from U-235).
- For nuclear weapons, enrichment is required upto 90% or more which is known as weapons-grade uranium.
- Low-enriched uranium, which typically has a 3-5% concentration of U-235, can be used to produce fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.
- Highly enriched uranium has a purity of 20% or more and is used in research reactors.