The head of the UN nuclear guard warned that Iran would enrich uranium to levels of purity that “only countries that make bombs are arriving.”
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Financial Times that the situation was “very worrying” that Iran’s nuclear program had become more sophisticated in the past two years.
“A country that gets rich at 60 percent is a very serious thing – only countries that make bombs have reached that level,” Grossi said. “Sixty percent is almost weapon quality, commercial enrichment is 2, 3 [per cent]. “
In an interview, he said it was Iran’s “sovereign right” to develop its program, but added: “This is a diploma that requires a watchful eye.”
Iran has increased its nuclear activity since May 2019 in response to Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull the United States out of the signed Tehran nuclear deal with world powers and impose paralyzing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
Tehran announced last month that it enriches uranium to a purity level of 60 percent – its highest level ever passed – which far exceeds the 3.67 percent purity agreed in the 2015 nuclear deal. It continued to increase its nuclear activity while holding talks with the remaining signatories to the agreement – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia – to push for an agreement that would lead the United States to reunite the agreement.
President Joe Biden has said his administration will meet if Iran returns to full compliance. Tehran insists US sanctions must first be lifted. All parties said the discussions were constructive. A fifth round began in Vienna on Tuesday.
Iran repeatedly denies seeking nuclear weapons. He had told the IAEA that his increased uranium enrichment was for medical and research purposes, Grossi said. But he added: “We don’t seem to find much need for that at the current level of industrial, medical activity in Iran, but it’s up to a country to decide.”
Iran complied with the agreement before May 2019, but in the next two years, it has increased the number of operating centrifuges from the agreed limit of 5,060 to 7,000. It has also developed new centrifuges to be able to produce more enriched uranium sooner. “Qualitatively, there has been significant progress,” Grossi said.
Iran’s enriched uranium reserve was now more than 10 times the 300kg limit accepted in the agreement, he said.
Grossi said most of the measures taken by Tehran could be reversed relatively easily, but added that the level of research and development that had been done was a “problem”.
“You can’t put genius in the bottle – once you know how to do things, you know, and the only way to verify that is through verification,” he said. “Iran’s program has grown, it has become more sophisticated so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep its activities below the 2015 parameters.”
Iran imposed restrictions on IAEA inspectors in February. But under a compromise agreement that was extended this week until six days later presidential election by June, it allowed some surveillance, although limiting inspections to a short time. Grossi described the extension as a “bridge” but said the agreement would ultimately be “unsustainable”.
“We’re going into a phase where we have to take … one week at a time, and see how the other process goes [the Vienna negotiations] evolving, ”Grossi said.“ It’s clear that with a program with the degree of ambition, of sophistication that Iran has, you need a very robust, very strong verification system. . . otherwise it becomes very fragile. ”