IAEA: Iran has started enriching uranium at up to 20% purity

International Atomic Energy Agency reports Iran has added 17.6 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 20% to its stockpile.

Elad Benari ,

Vienna International Centre, where IAEA offices are located
Vienna International Centre, where IAEA offices are located

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday reported that Iran had added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20% to its stockpile as of February 16, The Associated Press reports.

The confidential IAEA document distributed to member countries and seen by AP is the first official confirmation of plans Iran announced in January to enrich to the greater purity, which is just a technical step away from weapons-grade levels and far past the 3.67% purity allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers.

Iran also increased its total enriched uranium stockpile to 2,967.8 kilograms (6,542.9 pounds), up from 2,442.9 kilograms (5,385.7 pounds) reported on November 2, the IAEA said.

Iran has consistently scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018.

Current President Joe Biden has expressed a desire to return to the 2015 agreement but has stressed he would only return to the deal if Iran returned to compliance with it.

Iran’s latest moves appear to be meant to apply pressure on Biden to rejoin the deal. As of Tuesday, the Islamic Republic also ended the implementation of the Additional Protocol of the 2015 nuclear deal that allows the IAEA to carry out snap-inspections at sites not declared to the agency.

On Sunday, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi visited Tehran, where he reached a deal with Iran to continue some verification and monitoring activities in the country.

The IAEA has released several reports on Iran’s continuous violations of the 2015 agreement. A recently released report found that Iran has fired up advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges that it had installed at its Natanz site in violation of the 2015 agreement.

In a previous report, the UN agency said that the Islamic Republic’s stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than ten times the limit set down in the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.