The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations nuclear watchdog, has released a report revealing that Iran has enriched uranium particles up to 83.7% purity. This is a significant increase from the country’s previous level of enrichment, which was limited to 60% under the 2015 nuclear deal.
The report, which was released on Wednesday, states that the agency found the enriched uranium particles in samples taken at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in August 2021. The IAEA noted that the enrichment level was “consistent with the fluctuations” in Iran’s declared enrichment activities, but it raised concerns about the country’s adherence to the nuclear deal.
The 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed by Iran and six world powers. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. However, in 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement and reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Since then, Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the deal in response to the sanctions. In May 2019, Iran announced that it would begin enriching uranium beyond the 3.67% limit set by the JCPOA, and it has continued to do so despite efforts by the remaining parties to the agreement to salvage it.
The discovery of the enriched uranium particles at the Natanz facility has raised concerns about Iran’s intentions and its ability to produce a nuclear weapon. Enriching uranium to 90% or above is considered weapons-grade, and experts warn that Iran could reach that level within months if it continues to ramp up its enrichment activities.
Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful and that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. However, the country’s actions have raised suspicions among the international community, and the IAEA’s report is likely to increase pressure on Iran to return to compliance with the JCPOA.
The report comes as negotiations between Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA, including the United States, are ongoing in an effort to salvage the deal. The talks have been stalled for months, with each side accusing the other of making unreasonable demands.