Iran has made progress in its work on enriched uranium metal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“On 14 August 2021, the Agency verified … that Iran had used 257 g of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235 in the form of UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) to produce 200 g of uranium metal enriched up to 20% U-235,” the IAEA said, adding that this was step three in a four-step plan by Iran.
The fourth includes producing a reactor fuel plate.
Iran’s work on enriched uranium metal has rattled Europe’s JCPOA signatories and the United States because that technology, and knowledge of how to produce it, can be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its aims are entirely peaceful and it is developing a new type of reactor fuel.
“Iran has no credible need to produce uranium metal, which has direct relevance to nuclear weapons development,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
“Iran should cease its nuclear escalations and return to negotiations toward full implementation” of the nuclear agreement, he said.
In the report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said his inspectors confirmed on Saturday that Iran had now produced 200 grammes of uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent.
Grossi previously reported in February that his inspectors had confirmed that a small amount of uranium metal, 3.6 grammes, had been produced at Iran’s Isfahan plant.
Iran promised not to produce uranium metal as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under which it was to scale back its nuclear program drastically in return for sanctions relief.
But Iran said in earlier 2021 that it was researching uranium metal to provide advanced fuel for a research reactor – one of a series of steps it took outside the JCPOA after former president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the landmark accord.
“We have made clear that continued nuclear escalations beyond JCPOA limits are unconstructive and inconsistent with a return to mutual compliance,” Price said.
France, Germany and the UK, as well as Russia and China, have been working to try to preserve the accord.
Several rounds of talks in Vienna, Austria, failed to restore the JCPOA earlier this year, with disagreements remaining over the sequencing of mutual compliance with the deal and what US sanctions will be lifted.
In July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington is prepared to resume negotiations with the new Iranian administration but warned talks “cannot go on indefinitely”.
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