FILE - This Sept. 21, 1987 file photo shows mines aboard the Iranian ship Iran Ajr being inspected by a boarding party from the USS Lasalle in the Persian Gulf. Mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz show how susceptible one of the world's crucial chokepoints for global energy supplies remains, 30 years after the U.S. Navy and Iran found themselves entangled a similarly shadowy conflict. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

The Latest: Iran spokesman: Iran needs 20% enriched uranium

June 17, 2019 - 4:40 am

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on developments in the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. (all times local):

1:10 p.m.

A spokesman for Iran's nuclear program says the country has a need for uranium enriched up to 20%, only a step away from weapon-grade levels.

Behrouz Kamalvandi made the comment in a news conference carried on live television Monday.

Kamalvandi said Iran's needs 5% enrichment for its nuclear power plant in southern Iranian port of Bushehr and it needs 20% enrichment for a Tehran research reactor.

When uranium is mined, it typically has about 140 atoms of this unwanted isotope for every atom of U-235. Refining it to a purity of 3.67%, the level now allowed by the nuclear deal, means removing 114 unwanted atoms of U-238 for every atom of U-235.

Boosting its purity to 20% means removing 22 more unwanted isotopes per atom of U-235, while going from there to 90% purity means removing just four more per atom of U-235, he noted. Ninety percent is considered weapons-grade material.

That means going from 20% to 90% is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts.

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12:55 p.m.

A spokesman for Iran's nuclear agency says Tehran will increase uranium enrichment levels "based on the country's needs."

Behrouz Kamalvandi made the comment in a news conference carried live on state television on Monday.

He says that increase could be to any level, from 3.67% which is the current limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Kamalvandi spoke to local journalists at Iran's Arak heavy water facility.

His comments come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S., a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America for the nuclear deal.

Kamalvandi acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium.

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12: 45 p.m.

A spokesman for Iran's atomic agency says the country will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days.

Behrouz Kamalvandi made the comment in a news conference carried live on Iranian state television on Monday.

He spoke to local journalists at Iran's Arak heavy water facility.

His comments come in the wake of suspected attacks on oil tankers last week in the region that Washington has blamed on Iran and amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S., a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America for the nuclear deal.

Kamalvandi acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium.

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