This demand for 190,000 “separative work units” (SWU) was articulated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei this week. It is nearly four times the figure previously cited by the Islamic Republic, and more than 60 times the highest concrete figure that the West has been willing to accept. The West maintains that Iran’s centrifuge stockpiles should be kept to between several hundred and a few thousand because a higher figure would raise Iran’s breakout capability for a nuclear weapon. Ironically, this means that Boroujerdi’s threats essentially nullify his demands, since such a large enrichment capacity would allow Iran to exceed 20 percent enrichment in a very short period of time.
The West also insists upon much lower figures because as many analysts have said, there is no legitimate civilian need for the large numbers of centrifuges that Iran plans to install. Its current enrichment capabilities are considered to be more than enough to fill its needs for nuclear power, especially if one considers that Iran has traditionally imported reactor-grade uranium from Russia and could continue to do so. The website Utility Products reports that Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor is now running at full capacity. There can hardly be any civilian use for additional enriched uranium, at least until more nuclear power plants are built.