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Nuclear: Iran begins to enrich uranium to 60% in the Fordo plant

This 60% threshold announced on Tuesday greatly exceeds that of 3.

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Nuclear: Iran begins to enrich uranium to 60% in the Fordo plant

This 60% threshold announced on Tuesday greatly exceeds that of 3.67% set by the 2015 agreement between Tehran and the West on the Iranian nuclear program, aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring atomic weapons. A 90% enriched uranium is needed to produce an atomic bomb.

"Iran has started production of 60% enriched uranium for the first time at Fordo," in response to an IAEA resolution, the Isna news agency reported.

This underground plant located 180 kilometers south of Tehran had been recommissioned in 2019 and recently modified to achieve better efficiency.

The 2015 pact, known by its acronym JCPOA, offers Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for guarantees to ensure that Tehran will not acquire atomic weapons, a goal that the Islamic Republic has always had. denied sue.

But following the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, at the instigation of Donald Trump, and the reinstatement of American sanctions which are stifling its economy, Tehran has gradually freed itself from its obligations.

The main measure of this disengagement, Tehran had initiated in January 2021 the process intended to produce 20% enriched uranium in the Fordo plant.

Then in April 2021, Iran announced that it had started producing 60% enriched uranium at the Natanz site (center), approaching the 90% threshold.

On Sunday, Iran announced that it had taken retaliatory measures against the IAEA following a resolution criticizing Tehran's lack of cooperation, presented by the United States and three European countries (United Kingdom, France and Germany ).

This resolution voted last Thursday by the Board of Governors of the UN agency is the second this year, after that of June. Russia and China voted against.

The reason for the discord at the origin of the two resolutions is the same: the absence of "technically credible" responses from Tehran concerning traces of enriched uranium found at three undeclared sites.

Tehran is indeed demanding a closure of the IAEA investigation to reach a compromise with its direct interlocutors (Germany, France, Great Britain, China and Russia), while the United States participates indirectly.

- "Second action" -

The issue of undeclared sites is one of the main points on which the negotiations started in April 2021 in Vienna to revive the 2015 agreement stumble. After positive signals in August, the talks are now at a standstill.

According to a press release from Iranian diplomacy, the implementation of the measures in response to the resolution was carried out on Sunday "in the presence of IAEA inspectors" at the Natanz and Fordo sites.

"In a second action in response to the resolution, Iran injected gas into two more IR-2m and IR-4 cascades at the Natanz site," Isna added on Tuesday.

In a report consulted by AFP in November, the IAEA reported accumulated enriched uranium stocks of 3,673.7 kg as of October 22, a total lower by 267.2 kg compared to August but well above the 202.8 kilogram cap to which the Islamic Republic committed in 2015.

Above all, Iran is always enriching at high levels, far from the limit set at 3.67%: it thus has 386.4 kg at 20% (against 331.9 kg previously) and 62.3 kg at 60% (against 55.6 kgs).

This ramp-up is also occurring as the IAEA faces a sharp restriction in its inspections.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani on Monday raised the likelihood of canceling the planned visit by an IAEA delegation to Iran.

A resumption of dialogue seems all the more difficult as Iran has been shaken by popular protest since the death on September 16 of a 22-year-old young woman, Mahsa Amini, who died after her arrest by the morality police.

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