Iranian parliament speaker says scientists produced 17kg of 20 percent enriched uranium in less than a month, moving the country’s nuclear programme closer to weapons-grade enrichment levels.
The interior of the Fordow Uranium Conversion Facility in Qom, Iran is shown [File: HO/Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/AFP]
Iran produced 17kg (37.5 pounds) of 20 percent enriched uranium in less than a month, state TV has reported, moving its nuclear programme closer to weapons-grade enrichment levels amid heightened tensions with the United States.
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf made the announcement in a televised speech during a visit to the country’s Fordow nuclear facility on Thursday.
Uranium enriched to 20 percent is a short technical step away from weapons-grade 90 percent enrichment.
In his speech, Qalibaf thanked the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), which has not confirmed the information.
Western nations have criticised the enrichment activity and called on Tehran to adhere to a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.
Iran has said it would produce 120kg of 20 percent enriched uranium per year, or 10kg per month on average, so 17kg would exceed that timetable.
Roughly 250kg of 20 percent enriched uranium are needed to convert it into 25kg of the 90 percent enriched needed for a nuclear weapon.#
The development brings Iran closer to crossing the line between nuclear operations with a potential civilian use, such as enriching nuclear fuel for power-generating reactors, and nuclear-weapons work, something Tehran has long denied ever carrying out.
Former US President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
After the US then ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.
US President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was signed during the Obama administration, has said he hopes to return the US to the deal.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the US would only rejoin the accord once Iran meets its own commitments under the deal.