IAEA: Tehran boosts uranium enriched to 60%, closer to atomic energy
According to the Director General Grossi "a new mode of operation" is underway in the Natanz plant. A second cascade of centrifuges launched to raise the level of enrichment. The goal is the 90% threshold necessary to produce a nuclear device. Stalemate in negotiations in Vienna, the EU aims at a date for September.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Tehran has launched a new process to boost the pace of production of enriched uranium that now reaches 60%, a level considered increasingly close to the fateful threshold of 90% judged by experts necessary to produce the atomic bomb, according to Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IEA). Grossi's report came amid negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 agreement (Jcpoa), which limits the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities, still remain stalled.
The leader of the UN agency told member states that Iran has "configured a new mode of operation for the production of 60% enriched uranium" at the Natanz plant in the center of the country. For Grossi, a second cascade of centrifuges has been activated - after the first one started in April - to raise the level of enrichment.
Tehran had begun in mid-April to raise the level of enrichment, up from the 20 percent set earlier and well above the 3.67 percent limit enshrined in the 2015 international nuclear agreement. To produce an atomic bomb, enrichment must be pushed to a threshold of 90 percent or higher, although many more steps are required for final fabrication.
Over the past two years, Tehran progressively violated the terms of the pact by easing restrictions on nuclear activities. The first steps in this direction date back to 2019, in response to the May 2018 withdrawal by the then US President Donald Trump from the JCPOA and the reintroduction of the toughest sanctions in history, causing a collapse of the Iranian economy.
The temporary agreement will expire on June 24. However, international diplomats have so far shown cautious optimism that a new nuclear deal is possible even though the new US President Joe Biden has maintained the sanctions of his predecessor. Since April, US, European and Iranian emissaries have been holding talks in Vienna to try to restore the agreement.
The last meeting was held on 20 June, in the aftermath of the presidential elections that saw the victory of the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi, and since then no new dates have been set, an element that raises fears of a definitive collapse of the talks. In recent days, the EU has suggested a possible resumption in early September, while the Iranian leader has said he is in favor of efforts to lift U.S. sanctions that are strangling the economy.