IAEA says Iran intensified uranium enrichment process

Iran has increased its uranium enrichment to close weapons-grade levels.

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Iran has increased its uranium enrichment close to weapons-grade levels, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessment seen by Reuters on Tuesday, heightening tensions with the West as both parties seek to restart discussions on reviving Tehran’s nuclear deal, Reuters reported.

Iran improved the purity of its uranium refining to 60 percent from 20 percent in April, following an accident and power outage at its Natanz complex, which harmed operations at the country’s main underground enrichment plant. Iran has blamed Israel for the strike. The purity of weapons-grade uranium is roughly 90 percent.

Iran’s above-ground experimental enrichment plant at Natanz, according to the IAEA, was using one cascade, or cluster, of sophisticated centrifuges to enrich to up to 60 percent. On Tuesday, the IAEA told member states that Iran was also using a second cascade for this reason.

The move is the latest in a series by Iran to flout the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, which set a limit of 3.67 percent for uranium refinement. The US and its European allies have warned that such actions might jeopardize talks on restoring the accord, which are presently on hold.

Following the Reuters article, Iran stated that its nuclear program is peaceful and that it has informed the IAEA of its enrichment activities. According to Iranian official media, the country’s movements away from the 2015 agreement would be reversed if the US returned to the agreement and lifted sanctions.

“If the other parties return to their obligations under the nuclear accord and Washington fully and verifiably lifts its unilateral and illegal sanctions… all of Iran’s mitigation and countermeasures will be reversible,” foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted saying by state media.

Despite Western governments’ protests that such technology has no realistic civilian application, the IAEA reported on Monday that Iran had made progress on enriched uranium metal.

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