A Foreign Policy "argument" article from January 2012 contains this part

What has raised the world’s suspicions is that Iran continues to produce 20 percent enriched uranium despite the fact that this exceeds its civilian needs and, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledged in September [2011?], does not make economic sense.

Did Ahmadinejad make this specific statement? Are there more details to it? Like a full quote. (Of course there might be the issue of translation.)

  • This is related to a question on politics SE: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/41343/…
    – Fizz
    May 10, 2019 at 7:34
  • That's a nice one. What is 'making sense' in this case? Doing that yourself, to that specific level, at all, in the face of treaties, opposition, sanctions, compared to oil for energy etc? It's not enough for an answer to find such a quote. Even in more context this needs probably quite a bit of explanation… May 10, 2019 at 7:42
  • @LangLangC: Probably ignoring restrictions due to treaties, oppositions, and sanctions; and as opposed to other nuclear technologies. But we would only be speculating.
    – einpoklum
    May 10, 2019 at 7:49

1 Answer 1


It might refer to this Charlie Rose interview from 23 Sep 2011. To summarize, in this interview, Ahmadinejad said it made no economic sense for Iran to produce 20%-enriched uranium domestically instead of buying it (from abroad). He also said Iran wanted/needed 20%-enriched uranium only for the production of medical isotopes. (I don't want to get into the plausibility of those claims here.)

Charlie Rose: Most Americans believe in equal justice under the law and equal treatment of the law. Number two, I think that most Americans, people around the world recognize that Iran is a great country and a great culture. This specific question has to do with an agency of the United Nations suggesting that you, that you have much more enriched uranium at 20 percent than you need for the medical use, that there must be another reason for you wanting as much as you seem to be.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Through Translator): There is no such thing. That is completely erroneous. In -- we need one 110 kilograms for one cycle. We haven't even reached 70 kilograms. Let me put your mind at ease, sir. Right now as we speak, if they give us 20 percent enriched uranium we will completely shut down 20 percent domestic enrichment. How is that? Is there anything else to talk about? As you and I sit here and speak, if they bring into our reactors 20 percent enriched uranium for the production of -- for cancer treatment medication.

Charlie Rose: Right.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Through Translator): We will shut down domestic production, enrichment to 20 percent. You have to understand, it is quite an expensive proposition.

Charlie Rose: I know. I do know.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Through Translator): It has been quite expensive for us. It hasn't been advantageous but we were forced to do that. I announced that formally today. The United States government, France, any other government, if they -- if they bring us, if they make available to us 20 percent enriched uranium we will shut down domestic uranium production to 20 percent. We don't need it for anything other than the production of cancer treatment medication. I have no doubt that the people of the United States are law- abiding. They are humanitarians. But we're not talking about a role that the people of the United States are playing. I think there are certain political groups in the United States that are playing the essential role here. I think there is definitely a mutual love and respect between the people of Iran and the people of the United States. There no animosity amongst people. There are certain politicians that protect the interests of a very wealthy minority.

Charlie Rose: Yes.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Through Translator): And the interest of that wealthy minority lies in conflict in ongoing conflict with Iran. So the point is clear, it is not the decision of the people of America. You see, I said something to you I made a proposition to you that no one else can come back with a counteroffer to. Bring us 20 percent enriched uranium today we will shut down domestic uranium production to 20 percent on the same day. See how transparent we are trying to be and we are being? This is how we conduct ourselves habitually.

Charlie Rose: You have made this offer before.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Through Translator): I've -- we've said it before. We say it again. But on the -- outside the framework of this proposal, they wish to force their political agendas on us. We will not be forced into any situation by any outside power. I ask you are the people of the United States willing to be dictated to and forced down any path? If a foreign interest is wishing -- wishes to take away the independence of the United States, if they wish to take away the right under the laws of the United States, will they accept such force?

Charlie Rose: Well --

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Through Translator): No. We're the same way. We say respect our rights. Let's put the framework of the >>IAEA and give us -- respect our rights and give us our rights according to the letter of the law: If they give you, if you could persuade someone to provide the 20 percent enriched uranium, in order to fulfill all the medical needs that you have, a supply to take care of all of the medical needs, you are saying, that much, then you will tear down all of the enrichment facilities, the new enrichment facilities that you have. That's the deal you're offering. Again, I have said many times, 20 percent enrichment will be shut down; 3.5 percent is only -- for the power plant.

  • 3
    Interesting! That means the Foreign Policy article was misquoting! That is, it isn't that the use doesn't make sense, it's that it's cheaper/economically-better to buy it rather than make it - which is not what we construe from the FP quote. Thanks.
    – einpoklum
    May 10, 2019 at 13:50
  • 3
    @einpoklum: it also turns out that under JCPOA the EU+3 agreed to be a provider of last resort of 19.75%-enriched uranium for use in the Teheran reactor, which seems to be one (if not the) main source of medical isotopes in Iran. (In exchange Iran agreed not to produce 19.75%-enriched uranium themselves.) But EU+3 also tried to convince Iran to produce medical isotopes some other way, e.g. in cyclotrons politics.stackexchange.com/a/41355/18373
    – Fizz
    May 12, 2019 at 2:25

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