The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had informed it of its intention to enrich uranium to a purity level of 20%, at the Fordow nuclear site, a level it had reached before the nuclear deal was signed with the major powers in 2015.
“Iran’s message to the agency … did not mention when these enrichment activities would start,” the IAEA statement added.
The Fordow plant was built in the heart of the mountain, apparently to protect it from any aerial bombardment, and the nuclear deal does not allow enrichment activities there. Iran is already carrying out enrichment activities at Fordow with first-generation centrifuges (IR-1).
The step is the latest in many announcements that Iran recently reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which included abandoning commitment to more terms of the agreement, steps it began in 2019 in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement and its re-imposition of sanctions.
These were among several steps contained in a law passed by the Iranian parliament last month in response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the country’s top nuclear scientist, and Tehran blamed the assassination on Israel.
The Russian ambassador to the agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, had revealed this information earlier on Twitter, referring to a report delivered by Director General Rafael Grossi to the Board of Governors.
Such steps by Iran would complicate efforts by US President-elect Joe Biden to return to the nuclear deal.
Biden had announced his adherence to the nuclear deal, from which outgoing President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 and re-imposed harsh sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The nuclear agreement stipulates that the percentage of uranium enrichment will be set to less than 4%, while the percentage required to build nuclear weapons will reach 90%.
The primary goal of the agreement was to extend the time that Iran might need to produce enough radioactive materials for a nuclear bomb, if it decided to do so, to at least a year, from an approximate period of two to three months, and the agreement lifted the international sanctions imposed on Iran.
US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe that Iran had a secret and coordinated nuclear weapons program that it stopped in 2003, and Iran denies having such a program at any time.