Shafaq News/ The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in a report for member states said Iran has told the watchdog that it has started manufacturing equipment it will use to produce uranium metal –which can be used to construct the core of a nuclear weapon- at a site in Isfahan in coming months.
Gharib Abadi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the I.R. of Iran to the UN tweeted “R&D activities related to the design of an improved type of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor started. Natural uranium will be used to produce uranium metal in the first stage.”
Iran hasn’t made uranium metal so far, senior Western officials said. The IAEA said Tehran had given it no timeline for when it would do so. Still, the development brings Iran closer to crossing the line between nuclear operations with a potential civilian use, such as enriching nuclear fuel for power-generating reactors, and nuclear-weapons work, something Tehran has long denied ever carrying out.
This step is considered the latest breach of the 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers as the country presses for a lifting of U.S. sanctions.
The deal specifically imposes a 15-year ban on Iran producing or acquiring uranium metal, a sensitive material that can be used in the core of a nuclear bomb.
The deal also says that can only happen in small batches and in consultation with parties to the deal after 10 years.
Iran has been accelerating its breaches of the deal in the past two months. Some of those steps were required by a law passed in response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist in November, which Tehran has blamed on its arch-foe Israel.
The moves raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office next week and has pledged to return the United States to the deal if Iran first resumes full compliance. Iran wants Washington to lift sanctions first.
The IAEA report to member states said Iran had indicated it plans to produce uranium metal from natural uranium and then produce uranium metal enriched up to 20% for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor.
Separately Iran also plans to enrich uranium to 20%, a level it last reached before the 2015 deal, at its Fordow site buried in a mountain, and it started that process last week. It had so far only gone as far as 4.5%, above the 3.67% limit imposed by the deal but still far short of the 90% that is weapons grade.
Iran denies the US accusations saying it doesn’t seek nuclear weapons and says its aims with nuclear energy are entirely peaceful.