Iran has accelerated its enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade, the UN atomic watchdog said in a report on Tuesday seen by Reuters, a move raising tensions with the West as both sides seek to resume talks on reviving Tehran’s nuclear deal.
Iran improved the purity of its uranium refining to 60% fissile purity from 20% in April, following an explosion and power outage at its Natanz site, which damaged output at the main underground enrichment unit there.
Iran has blamed the attack on Israel. Weapons-grade is around 90 percent purity.
Iran’s above-ground pilot enrichment plant at Natanz, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced centrifuges to enrich to up to 60%. On Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told member states that Iran was also using a second cascade for this reason.
Iran’s latest action violates the 2015 nuclear deal’s limits, which set a limit of 3.67 percent purity for uranium enrichment. Such actions, according to the US and its European allies, risk damaging efforts to resurrect the deal, which is now on hold.
Following Reuters’ report, Iran reiterated that its nuclear program is peaceful and said it had informed the IAEA about its enrichment activities. It added that its moves away from the 2015 deal would be reversed if the United States returned to the accord and lifted sanctions, Iranian state media reported.
“All of Iran’s mitigation and countermeasures will be reversible if the other parties return to their obligations under the nuclear agreement and Washington fully and verifiably lifts its unilateral and illegal sanctions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by state media.
The IAEA said on Monday that Iran had made progress in its work on enriched uranium metal despite objections by Western powers that there is no credible civilian use for such work.
Uranium metal can be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb, but Iran says its aims are peaceful and it is developing reactor fuel.
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