Iran says more than 120kg of uranium enriched to 20%

Announcement comes amid signs Tehran may be open to resuming stalled talks on 2015 nuclear deal

Iran has amassed more than 120kg of 20% enriched uranium, well above the level agreed to in the 2015 deal with world powers, the head of the country’s atomic energy agency has told state television.

“We have passed 120 kilograms,” said Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation. “We have more than that figure. Our people know well that [western powers] were meant to give us the enriched fuel at 20% to use in the Tehran reactor, but they haven’t done so.

“If our colleagues do not do it, we would naturally have problems with the lack of fuel for the Tehran reactor.”

The Tehran reactor was originally supplied to Iran by the US in the 1960s to produce radioisotopes for use in medical treatments and agriculture, and has since been modified to run on 20% enriched uranium, which the country began producing in 2012.

In September the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had boosted its stocks of uranium that had been enriched above the percentage allowed in the 2015 deal with world powers.

It estimated that Iran had 84.3kg of uranium enriched to 20%, up from 62.8kg when the IAEA last reported in May.

Under the deal, Iran was not meant to enrich uranium above 3.67%, well below the 90% threshold needed for use in nuclear weapons.

Under the 2015 agreement China, France, Germany, the UK and the US had agreed to lift some sanctions against Iran if Tehran cut back its nuclear programme.

But since Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, Tehran has progressively abandoned its commitments under the agreement, and the US has imposed fresh sanctions in response.

On Friday, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he was optimistic that talks on reviving the 2015 deal would make progress, provided Washington fully resumed its commitments.

Speaking during a visit to Syria, Amir-Abdollahian reiterated that Iran would “soon” return to the nuclear talks with world powers, which include indirect negotiations with the US, Iranian state media reported.

The talks, which aim to bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear pact, were adjourned in June after the hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s president.

“Of course, we will soon return to the Vienna talks and we are keeping our eyes on the issue of verification and receiving the necessary guarantees for the implementation of commitments by the western parties,” state media quoted Amir-Abdollahian as saying.

Amir-Abdollahian did not give details of the verification and monitoring mechanism Tehran was seeking. But Iran has often voiced concern about the need to verify that US sanctions lifted under the accord are not kept in place by Washington.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report

Staff and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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