TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) – Iran has begun producing enriched uranium at 60 per cent purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear plant, official media reported on Tuesday, describing it as a response to a resolution by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.
The increased enrichment, reported by the official news agency IRNA, was seen as a significant addition to the country’s nuclear programme. From Vienna, the United Nations (UN) nuclear watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – said the 60 per cent enrichment at Fordo comes on top of similar production at the Natanz plant in central Iran.
The IAEA also said that Iran plans a “significant expansion” in its production of low-enriched uranium at Fordo and a second production building at Natanz. Fordo is some 100 kilometres south of the capital of Tehran. Enrichment to 60 per cent purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent.
Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60 per cent-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.
IRNA did not give details on the amount of the enriched uranium being produced at Fordo.
Later on Tuesday, a joint statement from Germany, France and Britain – the three Western European countries that remain in the Iran nuclear deal – condemned Iran’s latest action to further expand its nuclear programme.
“Iran’s step is a challenge to the global non-proliferation system,” a statement from the three said. “This step, which carries significant proliferation-related risks, has no credible civilian justification.”
“We will continue to consult, alongside international partners, on how best to address Iran’s continued nuclear escalation,” the statement added. On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said his country was taking the steps in reaction to a resolution adopted last week by the IAEA.
The resolution, approved by the IAEA’s board of governors, called for Iran’s cooperation with a probe by the agency into man-made uranium particles at three undeclared sites.