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Iran: UN inspectors find higher enrichment at nuclear site

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors found traces of uranium enriched above 20 percent at a nuclear site in Iran.

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The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 750 miles south of Tehran. Inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog agency said traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent were found at Iran's underground nuclear site at Fordo on May 25, 2012. (Majid Asgaripour/Getty Images)

The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has reportedly found evidence of uranium enriched to a higher percent in an underground bunker in Iran, moving the country one step closer to the threshold needed for nuclear missiles, according to the Associated Press.

The BBC reported that the inspectors found uranium enriched to 27 percent at the Fordo enrichment site, a site which Iran has insisted was for civilian use, with the capability of enriching uranium to a maximum of 20 percent.

According to the IAEA report, the Iranians told the UN inspectors that such particles "may happen for technical reasons beyond the operator's control," said the BBC.

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The level of enrichment needed to produce weapons grade uranium is 90 percent.

Reuters noted that most of the effort required to reach 90 percent is already achieved once uranium is enriched to 20 percent, shortening the amount of time required to make nuclear weapons.

The Fordo bunker is also 265 feet underground, making it a harder target for Israeli and US military strikes, according to Reuters.

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The news comes just a day after Iran and six world powers concluded talks in Baghdad, agreeing on little more than further meetings.

The diplomats, who spoke to the AP anonymously, said the findings do not necessarily mean that Iran is covertly increasing its enrichment threshold, but could mean the centrifuges over-enriched before they were adjusted.

David Albright, a nonproliferation expert with the Institute for Science and International Security, said that the Fordo site's configuration tends to "overshoot 20 percent" at the beginning, according to the AP.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iran/120525/iran-un-inspectors-find-higher-enrichment-at-nuclear-site