‘Dangerously close to military grade’: IAEA warns of Iranian uranium expansion, World News

The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned against Iranian expansion of uranium beyond the highly enriched threshold of 20 percent purity.

The UN nuclear watchdog said it would ‘increase the frequency and intensity of its safeguards activities’ at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) away south of the Iranian capital Tehran.

Previously, Iran already enriched its uranium to 60% at the pilot fuel enrichment plant (PFEP). The addition of 20 percent will bring it closer to the weapon category which sits at 90 percent.

The West has criticized the enrichment process because it is irreversible. However, as this time the new activity does not involve keeping the product, it will not immediately accelerate Iranian production of enriched uranium to a level close to military grade.

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IAEA chief Raffael Gross said he was still awaiting a “high-level” discussion with Iranian officials in Tehran, as decided in September.

“We agreed that there would be a high level discussion, and that has not yet materialized,” Grossi told reporters in Washington. “I hope this will be done soon.”

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Iran’s deal with world powers to find a long-term solution to the now two-decade-old crisis over its controversial nuclear program has been dead since former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions.

His successor Joe Biden has said he is ready to re-enter the deal, on condition that Iran fulfills key preconditions, including full compliance with the deal whose nuclear activities it has repeatedly violated since the United States left the pact.

But Vienna-based talks through intermediaries made little progress, only to be halted by the election of extremist Ebrahim Raisi as Iranian president and suspended for the past four months.

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