Iran producing 20% enriched uranium
Published: 01:25 PM, 5 January 2021
Iran has resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, in its most significant breach yet of its 2015 deal with world powers to end nuclear sanctions.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told media the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent had started at Fordo.
President Hassan Rouhani had ordered the move because he was "bound" by a new law requiring the production and storage of at least 120kg (265lbs) of 20 percent-enriched uranium annually for peaceful purposes, he said.
Iran's parliament passed the law following the assassination in late November of the country's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which Iranian leaders blamed on Israel.
Later on Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran's move in a report to member states.
"Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20 percent," a statement said.
Enriched uranium can be used to make reactor fuel but also nuclear bombs. Weapons-grade uranium is 90 percent purity.
A US state department spokesperson said: "Iran enriching uranium to 20% at Fordow is a clear attempt to increase its campaign of nuclear extortion, an attempt that will continue to fail."
Iran, which insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful, has rolled back a number of commitments under the deal.
It has said it is retaliating for the US economic sanctions that were reinstated in 2018 by President Donald Trump when he abandoned the accord, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).