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Iran has uranium particles enriched to near-bomb quality: IAEA

VIENNA – The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed on Tuesday that it had discovered uranium particles enriched just under 90 percent, which are needed to make a nuclear bomb.

“Discussions are still ongoing” to determine the origin of these particles, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential report seen by AFP.

The report states that during an inspection, the agency “at 22 percent U-235.”

“These events clearly demonstrate the agency’s ability to timely detect and report changes in the operation of nuclear facilities in Iran,” she continued.

When asked about the presence of the particles, Iran said that “unintended fluctuations” during the enrichment process “could have occurred”.

Last week, Iran claimed it had made no attempt to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent.

“The presence of one or more uranium particles above 60 percent in the enrichment process means no enrichment above 60 percent,” said Iranian Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Behruz Kamalvandi.

Iran has enriched uranium well beyond the limits set in a landmark 2015 deal with world powers that began to unravel when the United States withdrew from it in 2018.

The deal was intended to provide Iran with much-needed sanctions relief in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program.

Negotiations between world powers to return to the deal began in 2021 and have stalled since last year.

– Visit to Tehran –

The IAEA report comes as the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, is due to visit Tehran “in the coming days” following an official invitation from the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency.

“In the last few days we have had constructive and promising talks” with the IAEA delegation, which has already been to Iran to investigate doubts about its nuclear program, AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Monday.

“We hope this trip lays the foundation for closer cooperation and clearer horizons between Iran and the IAEA,” he added.

Tehran has repeatedly stressed that it has no plans to build a nuclear bomb.

In the report, the IAEA said Iran’s estimated stockpiles of enriched uranium reached more than 18 times the limit set in the 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers.

It estimated that Iran’s total stockpile of enriched uranium was 3,760.8 kilograms (8,291 pounds) as of Feb. 12, an increase of 87.1 kilograms from the last report in November.

The limit in the 2015 deal was set at 202.8 kilograms of uranium.

– wake-up call –

The IAEA has repeatedly warned that it has lost its ability to fully monitor Iran’s program since the Islamic Republic began restricting its access in February 2021.

Iran’s reserves of uranium enriched to 60 percent stood at 87.5 kilograms, up from 62.3 kilograms, the report said.

Iran also now has 434.7 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 20 percent, up from 386.4 kilograms in the November report.

Referring to the 83.7 percent enriched particles detected in Iran, Kelsey Davenport, an expert at the Arms Control Association, said that “even if it’s random, it’s no less worrying.”

“This should be a wake-up call for the international community,” she said in a recent online briefing, urging the United States and Iran to define a new strategy to defuse the crisis.

On Sunday, CIA Director William Burns said Iran’s nuclear program was progressing at a “worrying pace”.

Iran is “very advanced to the point where it would be a matter of weeks before it could enrich to 90 percent if it exceeded that limit,” Burns told CBS.

However, he added that the United States did not believe Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had decided to “resume the weapons program that we believe was suspended or halted in late 2003.”

In January, the IAEA’s Grossi said Iran had “stocked up enough nuclear material for multiple nuclear weapons.”

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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