VIENNA (NewsNation Now) — The United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency said Wednesday its inspectors have confirmed that Iran has begun the production of uranium metal — another violation of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
Uranium metal can be used to create the core of an atomic bomb.
“The Agency on 8 February verified 3.6 gram of uranium metal at Iran’s Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) in Esfahan,” the IAEA statement added.
In 2019, Iran began breaching its side of the nuclear deal in response to former President Trump’s withdrawal from the deal the previous year and reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.
Iran has in recent months accelerated those breaches of the deal’s restrictions on its atomic activities, potentially complicating efforts to bring the United States back into the deal under President Joe Biden.
An Iranian law passed in response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist in November, which Tehran blames on Israel, called for steps including opening a uranium metal plant. Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency in December it planned to produce uranium metal fuel for a research reactor.
“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today informed IAEA Member States about recent developments regarding Iran’s R&D activities on uranium metal production as part of its stated aim to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor,” the IAEA said in a statement.
Wednesday’s report, and a previous one, said that Iran planned to carry out research on uranium metal using natural uranium before moving on to uranium metal enriched to 20%, the level it is enriching uranium to now. 90% enrichment is weapons grade.
Last month, France, Britain and Germany said they were “deeply concerned” and that Iran’s uranium metal production had no civilian credibility but potentially serious military implications.
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — that Tehran signed with Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States in 2015 — aimed to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb.
Iran, however, denies ever pursuing nuclear weapons and says it only wants to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons program that it halted in 2003.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.