Iran said on cusp of nuclear weapons capability after enriching uranium to 84% purity

Inspectors from the UN nuclear agency last week discovered uranium enriched to 84 percent in Iran, closer than ever to weapons-grade level, Bloomberg reported on Sunday, citing two unnamed senior diplomats.

So far it has been known that Iran has enriched uranium to 60%. A purity of 90% is required for the production of nuclear weapons.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are trying to determine if Tehran made the move intentionally or if it was an “unintentional accumulation within the network of pipes connecting the hundreds of high-speed centrifuges used to separate the isotopes,” the statement said Report.

A diplomat said Iran had not submitted the necessary documentation to explain its intention to increase enrichment levels at two nuclear facilities in Natanz and Fordow.

The other diplomat noted that the material, even if randomly accumulated as in the past, shows the problems associated with Iran’s activities in the production of highly enriched uranium.

The IAEA tweeted that it was “aware of recent media reports on uranium enrichment in Iran.”

Director-General Rafael Grossi indicated that the agency is in talks with Iran about the results of the recent inspections, the tweet added.

The report did not say where the highly enriched material was found.

It came after last month’s unannounced inspection of the Fordo nuclear site, which saw two advanced centrifuges linked together in ways the Iranians had failed to tell inspectors. Iran said it gave “explanations” to the inspector who reported the change and he then “realized his mistake”.

In a joint response at the time, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany dismissed Iran’s claim as “inadequate”.

On March 6, the IAEA will present its quarterly security report on Iran to its executive board at its meeting in Vienna.

In January, Grossi told lawmakers in the European Parliament that Iran had “amassed enough nuclear material for multiple nuclear weapons – none at this point.”

Discussing Iran’s recent nuclear activities, including enriching uranium well beyond the limits of the landmark 2015 deal to curb its nuclear capabilities, Grossi said Tehran’s course is “certainly not a good one”.

The agreement with world powers known as the JCPOA fell through after the United States withdrew from it in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump. The JCPOA gave Iran sanctions relief in return for restricting and inspecting its nuclear facilities. After Washington backed down, claiming the deal didn’t go far enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the Iranians dropped many of their own commitments to the pact and stepped up uranium enrichment. The deal had set a maximum enrichment threshold of 3.67%.

Negotiations to revive the deal, which began in April 2021, have since stalled.

Iran said in November it had started producing uranium enriched to 60% at Fordo, an underground facility that reopened three years ago after the collapse of the JCPOA.