Rafael Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Wednesday told The Financial Times that the situation was “very concerning” since Iran’s nuclear program had become more sophisticated over the past two years (IAEA chief sounds alarm over Iran’s nuclear programme).
“A country enriching at 60 percent is a very serious thing — only countries making bombs are reaching this level,” said Grossi. “Sixty percent is almost weapons-grade,” he said, noting that commercial enrichment is at 2% to 3%.
Tehran announced in April that it was pushing the purity level of its uranium enrichment program to 60% the highest level it had ever attained, that compared to the 3.67% purity limit according to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Iran informed Grossi of its decision on Monday. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced that after the extension of a three-month deal with the IAEA had expired, the enrichment of uranium in Iran to purity levels of 60%, 20%, and 5% is proceeding according to plan.
“Uranium enrichment at 60%, 20%, and 5% purity levels still continues in Iran and our stockpiles of the 20% enriched uranium stand at over 90 kilograms,” Salehi said on Monday, adding that Iran had also stockpiled over 2.5 kilograms of 60 percent enriched uranium and more than 5 tons of 5 percent enriched uranium.
Grossi’s and Salehi’s comments coincide with the renewed negotiations between Iran and the global powers in Vienna to reach an agreement that includes Washington taking down its sanctions and Tehran returning to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
The US withdrew from the deal in 2018, under President Donald Trump, which opened the door officially for Iran to steadily bypass the accord’s limits on its nuclear program.
According to Grossi, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was at around three tons, 10 times the 300 kg limit in the accord.
“You cannot put the genie back into the bottle — once you know how to do stuff, you know, and the only way to check this is through verification,” Grossi told The Financial Times. “The Iranian program has grown, become more sophisticated so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the parameters of 2015.”