Iran Reportedly Starts Production of 20 Percent Enriched Uranium Metal, US and Europe Warn

Iran Reportedly Starts Production of 20 Percent Enriched Uranium Metal, US and Europe Warn

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced that Iran plans to increase uranium enrichment in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal Tehran agreed with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday (06/07) announced that Iran plans to produce uranium metal enriched with a purity of up to 20% for nuclear reactor fuel.

The US called Iran's move "provocative." Such a move would put Tehran into further breach of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated under the Barack Obama administration. The treaty prohibits all engineering of uranium metal because it can be used to make nuclear weapons.

"We have made clear that such a provocative move will not and will not give Iran any leverage in the negotiations," State Department spokesman Ned Price said. "We continue to urge Iran to stop this reckless move."

Europe warns Iran

Britain, France and Germany backed US calls for Iran to drop its plans. In a joint statement, they noted the announcement with "grave concern."

"Iran has no credible civilian need for research and development and production of uranium metal, which is a key step in the development of nuclear weapons," the three countries said.

"With its latest steps, Iran is threatening the success of the talks in Vienna, despite progress made in six rounds of negotiations," the statement continued.

Iranian officials have always insisted that Tehran's atomic program is for power generation and medical purposes. Reuters news agency reported, Iran has started the process of enriching uranium metal up to 20%.

Sluggish bid to revive JCPOA nuclear deal

Negotiators from Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, UK, France, China, Russia plus Germany - have been holding talks in Vienna since April to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. But talks have not moved forward in recent weeks and were postponed to June 20.

The agreement requires Iran to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. The authorities in Tehran must also allow the United Nations to monitor some of their nuclear facilities.

But Iran has repeatedly violated parts of the agreement since former US President Donald Trump unilaterally decided to walk out of the agreement, even though other co-signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have tried to keep the agreement in effect without the US. Now, the Biden administration has expressed a willingness to sign the deal once again, provided certain conditions are met.

Iran will continue its nuclear talks in Vienna on August 3, which will be led directly by its new president, Ebrahim Raisi.