Abu Dhabi, UAE
According to the UN oversight body, particles of uranium enriched to a level close to the bomb level were found at the Iranian nuclear facility. as the United States warned that Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb is gaining momentum.
In a limited report seen by CNN, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that uranium particles enriched to 83.7% purity, close to the 90% enrichment level needed to build a nuclear bomb, were found in an Iranian plant. for fuel enrichment in Fordow. Plant (FFEP), an underground nuclear facility located about 20 miles northeast of the city of Qom.
The report said that in January, the IAEA took environmental samples at the Fordow plant, which showed the presence of particles of highly enriched uranium with a purity of up to 83.7%.
Subsequently, the IAEA informed Iran that these findings “do not correspond to Iran’s declared enrichment level at the Fordow plant and asked Iran to clarify the origin of these particles,” the report said.
According to a confidential IAEA report, Iran’s stocks of 60% enriched uranium have also risen from 25.2 kg to 87.5 kg since the last quarterly report.
The IAEA report said that negotiations with Iran to clarify the issue are ongoing, noting that “these developments clearly indicate the IAEA’s ability to detect and report changes in the operation of nuclear facilities in Iran.”
In an exclusive interview with CNN correspondent Christian Amanpour on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian did not directly answer a question about the enrichment reports.
Amir-Abdollahian said that IAEA Deputy Director General Massimo Aparo has visited Iran twice in recent weeks and that IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi has been invited to visit the country.
“We have a roadmap with the IAEA. And in two cases Mr. [Massimo] Aparo, Mr. [Rafael] Deputy Grossi has been visiting Iran in the past few weeks and we have had constructive and productive talks. And we also invited Mr. Grossi to come and visit Iran soon,” Amir-Abdollahyan told CNN. “Therefore, our relationship with the IAEA is on the right, natural path.”
Last year, Iran removed all IAEA equipment previously installed for surveillance and monitoring related to the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The move had “detrimental consequences for the IAEA’s ability to guarantee the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” the IAEA report said.
A US State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday that the IAEA report potentially represents a “very serious event.”
“We are in close contact with our allies and partners in Europe and the region as we await further details from the IAEA on this potentially very serious event,” the spokesperson added.
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl on Tuesday said “Iran’s nuclear progress since the Trump administration pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal has been remarkable,” adding that in 2018, when the US pulled out, “it took Iran would have about 12 months to produce one fissile material for one bomb.”
“Now it will take about 12 days,” he said.
More than a year of indirect talks between the US and Iran to try to revive the 2015 nuclear deal broke down in September 2022. Tensions between the two countries only escalated after Iran crackdown on nationwide protests at home, and like Tehran supplied drones to Russia in the Ukrainian war.
Kahl said on Tuesday that the agreement was “frozen”.