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Iran is rapidly expanding its nuclear program, IAEA report finds

Iran has significantly increased production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the last few months, a new confidential report has found.

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The UN Security Council has received a new confidential report from the International Atomic Energy Agency which suggests that Iran is ramping up its nuclear program. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran's nuclear program is expanding rapidly, as the country has increased its production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the past few months, a confidential report has found. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report was published by the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonprofit group focused on nuclear nonproliferation efforts, and is the latest update on Iran's nuclear program given to the agency's 35-nation board and the UN Security Council. It was obtained by the Associated Press on Friday. 

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In addition to the uranium production, the IAEA found that Iran did not offer a convincing explanation for a quantity of uranium metal that had gone missing, the Associated Press reported. The unaccounted-for amount is significant enough to be used for nuclear missile experiments, diplomats told the AP. 

During an IAEA inspection visit that ended Tuesday, Iranian officials also refused inspectors access to a key military facility, and dismissed the concerns of inspectors as being based on "unfounded allegations," according the report, which has not yet been released by the IAEA, CNN International reported

The report has exacerbated existing fears about how quickly Iran could build a nuclear weapon, a goal Iranian officials deny, Slate reported. The United States and European Union recently imposed sanctions on Iran to deter nuclear weapons production, to which the Islamic republic retaliated with its own oil embargoes on Britain and France, according to Slate.

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Uranium enrichment involves increasing the concentration of uranium-235 from its natural concentration of less than 1 percent to the higher concentrations, CNN reported. Nuclear power requires 3 percent to 5 percent, and nuclear weapons require 90. Iran is enriching some of its uranium cache to 20 percent, despite United Nations and IAEA resolutions requesting that they stop, the report confirmed, according to CNN. 

While Iran has said the higher-level enrichment is meant to produce therapies for cancer patients, international critics have called the efforts a troubling step toward possible militarization of nuclear technology in the country.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/diplomacy/120224/iran-nuclear-program-expands-iaea-report