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U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Warns Iran Approaching Weapons Grade Uranium Enrichment Levels

National Review 11/22/2022 Ari Blaff
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with a group of students in Tehran, Iran, November 2, 2022. © Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/WANA/Handout via Reuters Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with a group of students in Tehran, Iran, November 2, 2022.

The United Nation’s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced Tuesday that Iran is currently enriching uranium up to “60 percent purity” at its underground Fordox nuclear facility.

Although a 90 percent enrichment level is needed to convert uranium into weapons-grade material, the move brings Iran well above the 3.67 percent benchmark outlined in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We had said that Iran will seriously react to any resolution and political pressure…that is why Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity from Monday at the Fordow site,” Iran’s chief nuclear officer Mohammad Eslami said Tuesday, Reuters reports.

The move comes in response to the IAEA passing a resolution last Thursday insisting Iran cooperate with an ongoing investigation into traces of uranium across three undeclared sites in the country.

The United States withdrew from the JCPOA during Donald Trump’s administration. Among Trump’s primary criticisms of the deal was its reliance on “sunset clauses” in which negotiated enrichment caps were set to expire in 2030.

Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran was originally confined to using first-generation centrifuges known as the “IR-1” but has since begun installing newer models following America’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018. However, in recent months Iran has swapped these for the “IR-6” model a more advanced centrifuge superfluous for simple energy production.

A similar enrichment process had already taken place at Iran’s other major nuclear facility of Natanz.

Iran has taken an increasingly taken a belligerent stance towards recent efforts to circumscribe the country’s nuclear ambitions. In June, Iran removed IAEA equipment installed as part of the JCPOA agreement to monitor the country’s nuclear program. Following the announcement Thursday, Iran further announced that it would consider canceling a meeting with the IAEA to resolve the issue later in the month.

“The political goals of the founders of this anti-Iranian resolution will not be realized but it could impact the constructive relations between Tehran and the Agency,” Reuters reports Iran’s IAEA envoy Mohsen Naziri said.

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