The head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, is set to visit Iran this Friday for high-level talks.
The visit follows a report by IAEA inspectors that revealed the discovery of uranium particles enriched to 83.7 percent purity at its underground Fordow nuclear plant, Reuters reported.
Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90 percent.
Iran Denies Enrichment Beyond 60 Percent
Iran has denied that it is enriching uranium beyond 60 percent.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, said in a statement Wednesday that the highly-enriched particles occurred during the “transition period at the time of commissioning the process of [60%] product (November 2022) or while replacing the feed cylinder”
He claimed that Tehran’s uranium is enriched to 60 percent, according to state media.
Iranian officials have insisted that a few particles are sometimes enriched beyond set limits, but the quantity is negligible. Eslami repeated the same argument on Wednesday.
Israel Issues Warning, US Holding Back
In its quarterly report to the IAEA board of governors earlier this week, the agency also revealed that Iranian restrictions on its inspectors would impede the completion of a full inventory – or history – of the country’s enrichment process.
Speaking in Berlin this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen warned there are only two options to deal with Iran and its gallop towards a nuclear breakout: using the “snap back” mechanism to reinstate stricter UN sanctions on Iran, and “to have a credible military option on the table as well.”
The United States, however, is resisting the latter, with CIA director William Burns insisting that US intelligence has no evidence that Iran has decided to weaponize its nuclear fuel.
12 Days for Iran to Produce a Nuclear Bomb
However, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl warned Tuesday that Iran now has the capability to produce enough fissile material for at least one nuclear bomb in less than two weeks.
“Iran’s nuclear progress since we left the JCPOA has been remarkable. Back in 2018, when the previous administration decided to leave the JCPOA, it would have taken Iran about 12 months to produce one bomb’s worth of fissile material. Now it would take about 12 days,” he said.
Kahl noted that although Biden Administration officials still believe that a diplomatic option would be better in convincing Iran to pull back its nuclear program, “right now, the JCPOA is on ice.”
Flurry of Israel-US Meetings on Iran
Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Council chief Tzachi Hanegbi are heading to Washington next week to discuss the rising Iranian nuclear threat, Walla! News reported Wednesday.
The two officials are expected to meet with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials.
Shortly after, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to fly to Israel for further talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and President Isaac Herzog.
The 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers limited Iran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent, which suffices to fuel a nuclear power plant for civilian purposes. After repeated violations of the deal, in 2018 then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord.
Efforts to revive the deal began in April 2021, but reached a dead end after the Iranians were unwilling to comply with basic requirements, such as providing an explanation for the existence of uranium particles at three undeclared sites in the country.