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UN atomic watchdog: Iran further increases its stockpile of uranium

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VIENNA — The UN’s atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it believed Iran had further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium to a short technical step from weapons-grade levels.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has also expressed growing concern over Tehran’s lack of engagement in an investigation that has become a sticking point in efforts to revive the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with the powers. world.

In its confidential quarterly report, the IAEA told member countries it believed Iran had approximately 55.6 kilograms (122.6 pounds) of uranium enriched to 60 percent fissile purity, or an increase of 12.5 kilograms since May.

This 60% purity enrichment is a short technical step away from military grade levels of 90%. Non-proliferation experts have warned that Iran now has enough 60% enriched uranium to reprocess it into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

The IAEA report, viewed by The Associated Press, also estimated that as of August 21, Iran’s stockpile of all enriched uranium was 3621.3 kilograms, an increase of 365.5 kilograms since the last May quarterly report.

The Vienna-based IAEA said it was unable to verify the exact size of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium due to limitations Tehran imposed on UN inspectors last year and the removal of the agency’s control and surveillance equipment in June from Iranian sites.

While Iran has long maintained that its program is peaceful, officials are now openly discussing Tehran’s ability to seek an atomic bomb if it wanted to.

The IAEA assessment comes amid efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its program nuclear.

The United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to begin withdrawing from the terms of the deal.

Iran sent a written response last week in talks on a final draft roadmap for the parties to return to the nuclear deal in tatters, though the United States questioned Tehran’s offer . Neither side gave details of the content.

If the deal were to be renewed, the IAEA report says, the lack of monitoring and oversight since the removal of IAEA cameras in June would require ‘corrective action’ to restore its knowledge of Iran’s activities during this period.

In a separate report, IAEA officials said they were “increasingly concerned” that Iran had not engaged in the agency’s investigation of the particulate matter. artificial uranium found at three undeclared sites in the country, which has become a key sticking point in talks for a renewed deal.

Last week, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi argued that the IAEA’s investigation into the matter must be halted for the 2015 deal to be renewed.

The IAEA has been seeking answers to Iran for years on its particulate matter questions. US intelligence agencies, Western countries and the IAEA have said Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran was criticized by the IAEA’s board of governors, representing member states, in June for its failure to answer questions about the sites to the satisfaction of inspectors.

Because Iran has not further engaged with the IAEA on the issue or offered “credible” explanations for the presence of these particles, the IAEA’s latest report says the agency “is not in to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful”.

washingtonpost

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