TEHRAN: Iran’s atomic agency said on Friday that its stockpile of 20 per cent enriched uranium has reached over 210 kilograms (463 pounds), the latest defiant move ahead of upcoming nuclear talks with the West.
The figure, attributed to agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvan, was carried in a report by the semi-official Tasnim and Fars news agencies.
Under the historic 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the World Powers, Iran was not meant to enrich uranium above 3.67pc. Enriched uranium above 90pc can be used for nuclear weapons.
After months of delays, the European Union, Iran and the US announced on Wednesday that indirect talks to resuscitate the deal would resume on Nov 29 in Vienna.
The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its programme is peaceful.
Kamalvandi also said that so far his agency has also produced 25 kilograms of 60pc enriched uranium, a level that only countries with nuclear weapons have the physical capabilities to produce.
The US unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, but Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have tried to preserve the accord.
Tehran’s strategy of deliberately violating the deal is seen as an attempt to put pressure particularly on Europe to provide it with incentives to offset crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the US pullout.
On Sept 15, Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami said Tehran removed surveillance cameras belonging to the United Nations nuclear watchdog because of unfulfilled commitments by other signatories of the nuclear deal.
US President Joe Biden and European leaders criticised Tehran last week for what it saw as accelerated and provocative nuclear steps as Iran continues to enrich uranium to a higher levels.
With the talks in Vienna now stalled, Iran has breached limits set by the accord and is enriching small amounts of uranium to its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade purity as its stockpile continues to grow.
Iran says its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2021