Natanz nuclear facility
Natanz nuclear facilityReuters

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on Tuesday that Iran has established a process to accelerate production of highly enriched uranium, AFP reports.

The UN nuclear watchdog’s director, Rafael Grossi, informed IAEA member states that Tehran was boosting such capacity at its Natanz enrichment plant.

The agency verified on Saturday that "Iran had configured a new operational mode for the production of UF6 enriched up to 60 percent U-235," Grossi said in a statement to AFP.

This involved using two centrifuge cascades compared to one previously, he added.

The move takes Iran closer to the 90 percent purity level needed for use in a nuclear weapon.

Grossi’s comments come a day after the IAEA issued a report which stated that Iran is producing uranium metal.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal it signed with world powers in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

In April, the Islamic Republic announced it would begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, a move that would take the uranium much closer to the 90% suitable for a nuclear bomb.

In a report last month, the IAEA said Iran has begun the process of producing enriched uranium metal.

While Iran has scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal, it has been holding indirect talks with the Biden administration on a return to the agreement.

On Monday, the US urged Iran to return to the negotiating table.

"We have made clear that continued nuclear escalations beyond JCPOA limits are unconstructive and inconsistent with a return to mutual compliance," State Department spokesman Ned Price said, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the official name for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

"Iran should cease its nuclear escalations and return to negotiations toward full implementation of the JCPOA in good faith," he added.