Iran says it is enriching uranium to 60% purity at Fordo’s site

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Tehran, Iran — Iran has begun production of 60% pure enriched uranium at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear power plant, official media reported Tuesday, describing it as a response to a resolution by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

The increased enrichment, reported by the official IRNA news agency, was seen as an important addition to the country’s nuclear program.

Enrichment to 60% purity is a short, technical step away from 90% for weapons. Nonproliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60% enriched uranium to upgrade to fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran is enriching uranium to 60% purity. Iran is already enriching up to 60% purity at its Natanz nuclear power plant in central Iran. Fordo is located about 100 kilometers south of the capital of Tehran.

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IRNA gave no details on how much enriched uranium is produced.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said his country took the steps in response to what he said was a resolution by the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Officials gave no explanation.

Earlier this month, the IAEA said it believes Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Just last week, the agency criticized Tehran for continuing to deny agency officials access to or oversight of Iranian nuclear sites.

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A separate report said IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi is “deeply concerned” that Iran is still not involved in the agency’s investigation of man-made uranium particles found at three undeclared sites in the country. The issue has become a major sticking point in talks over a renewed nuclear deal.

It has been nearly two years since IAEA officials had full access to monitor Iran’s nuclear sites, and five months since the surveillance equipment was removed.

The IAEA’s assessment came as efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which eased sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, have stalled.

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The United States unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump. It reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to pull out of the terms of the deal.

The semi-underground enrichment facility at Natanz houses thousands of centrifuge machines.

Iran started 60% enrichment in Natanz in 2019.

Natanz was the target of sabotage in 2021, an explosion that hit new halls for installing centrifuge machines, what Iran called a “nuclear terrorism” and a shadow war raging between Tehran and Israel, the main suspect in the sabotage.

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