DUBAI: Iran said yesterday it will start enriching uranium to 60 per cent purity, a move bringing the fissile material closer to levels suitable for a bomb.
The disclosure came soon before the resumption of talks in Vienna aimed at reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers after former US President Donald Trump abandoned it three years ago.
A fissile purity of 90pc is suitable for a nuclear bomb.
Announcing 60pc enrichment, chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi also said Iran would activate 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz, a nuclear plant hit by an explosion on Sunday.
However, an Iranian official said later that “60pc enrichment will be in small quantity” only.
“From tonight, practical preparations for 60pc enrichment will begin in Natanz; 60pc uranium is used to make a variety of radiopharmaceuticals,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Iranian nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, said it had been informed of Iran’s decision.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Iran’s announcement “provocative” and said the Biden administration was concerned, adding that it called into question Tehran’s seriousness on nuclear talks.
Last week, Iran and the global powers held what they described as “constructive” talks to salvage the 2015 accord, which has unravelled as Iran has breached its limits on uranium enrichment since Trump re-imposed harsh sanctions on Tehran.
The deal had capped the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for centrifuges, at 3.67pc.
Iran in recent months has raised enrichment to 20pc purity, a level where uranium is considered to be highly enriched and is a significant step towards weapons-grade.