In the week that Iran has held “constructive” indirect talks in Vienna with the United States over its nuclear programme, Tehran has boasted of enriching 55kg of uranium to 20% purity since January – a major step towards the levels required for a viable nuclear weapon.
The announcement by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization represents a significant increase on the 10kg a month required by a controversial law passed by Iran’s hard-line parliament. The law requires Iran to enrich uranium to 20% – a flagrant breach of the failing JCPOA nuclear agreement and much closer to weapons grade level than previous enrichment activities – and also requires at least 125kg of the high-enriched uranium each year.
Spokesperson for Iran’s AEO Behrouz Kamalvandi said that the country’s production rate was already “up to 40%” faster than the required level and aimed to have 120kg within eight months.
A quarterly report released in February by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog confirmed the country has produced 17.6kg of the highly enriched uranium. The JCPOA deal stipulates that Iran is only permitted to enrich up to 3.67%.
Iran is enriching uranium to 20% at its underground enrichment facility in Fordow which was built secretly inside a mountain – another breach of the JCPOA agreement.