A nuclear facility in Iran, Archive
A nuclear facility in Iran, ArchiveReuters

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency shows Iran has slowed its enrichment of uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The confidential report comes as Iran and the United States are negotiating a prisoner swap and the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in South Korea. Slowing its enrichment of uranium could serve as another sign that Tehran seeks to lower tensions between it and America after years of tensions since the collapse of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said Iran has 121.6 kilograms (268 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 60%, a far slower growth than in previous counts. An IAEA report in May put the stockpile of 60% uranium at just over 114 kilograms (250 pounds). It had 87.5 kilograms (192 pounds) in February.

Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran has maintained its program is peaceful, but the IAEA’s director-general has warned Tehran has enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear bombs if it chooses to build them.

While Iran has slowed the enrichment, the IAEA reported other problems with trying to monitor its program. An IAEA report seen by the AP said Iran had denied visas for agency officials, while the “de-designation of experienced agency inspectors” also challenged its work.

The IAEA also hasn’t been able to access surveillance camera footage since February 2021 under Iranian restrictions, while the only recorded data since June 2022 has been from cameras at a workshop in the Iranian city of Isfahan.