World Politics

'Only countries making bombs' are enriching uranium at Iran's level, IAEA chief says

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Key Points
  • Iran is now enriching its uranium to 60% purity, dramatically higher than the 3.67% level permitted under the 2015 deal.
  • Earlier this week, Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agreed to extend an expired monitoring agreement by a month.
  • The IAEA warning comes amid high tensions between Iran and the world powers that signed the Iran nuclear deal as negotiations between those countries to revive the deal are underway.
A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken last week and obtained by Reuters on April 12, 2021.
Maxar Technologies | via Reuters

The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed alarm over Iran's nuclear program, spelling out his concern in an interview with the Financial Times this week.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told the newspaper in an interview published Wednesday that the situation was "very concerning."

Earlier this week, Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agreed to extend an expired monitoring agreement by a month. Grossi's warning comes amid high tensions between Iran and the world powers that signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as negotiations between those countries to revive the deal are underway.

"A country enriching at 60 percent is a very serious thing — only countries making bombs are reaching this level," Grossi told the FT.

"Sixty percent is almost weapons grade, commercial enrichment is 2, 3 [percent]."

While he said it was Iran's "sovereign right" to develop its program, which Tehran insists is for civilian energy purposes only, he added: "This is a degree that requires a vigilant eye."

Iran has been increasing its uranium stockpiling and enrichment in gradual breaches of the 2015 accord, which placed curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions on the country. The ramp up in activity began in May 2019, one year after then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the multilateral deal and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy. 

Iran is now enriching its uranium to 60% purity, dramatically higher than the 3.67% level permitted under the deal. The level of enrichment required to make a bomb is 90%. Tehran continues to argue that its development is for peaceful aims.

Read the full report from the Financial Times here.