It’s a good thing Islam is a religion of peace, or this might really be a threatening development. From AP, with thanks to Mackie:
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran confirmed for the first time Monday that it converted 37 tons of raw uranium into gas, a key step ahead of enrichment, before it suspended all such activities in November under international pressure.
The confirmation means Tehran is in a position to quickly start enriching uranium if it chose to end its suspension of enrichment-related activities. It comes at a crucial time, with Europe trying in fragile negotiations to seal an agreement to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program does not produce weapons.
The Europeans agreed last year that Iran could finish converting the 37 tons. Iran had begun processing the material in a rushed attempt to do it just before the suspension.
Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told The Associated Press that Iran had processed the uranium into UF-4 gas. If processed further into UF-6, the material could be fed into centrifuges and enriched, allowing it to be used either to produce electricity or make nuclear weapons.
“We converted all the 37 tons of uranium concentrate known as yellowcake into UF-4 at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility before we suspended work there,” Saeedi said.
Nuclear experts say that when fully processed, the 37 tons of yellowcake can theoretically yield more than 200 pounds of weapons-grade uranium, enough to make five crude nuclear weapons.