Nuclear: Iran increases its production of enriched uranium to 60%

Iran has returned in recent weeks to a rate of production of uranium enriched to 60% similar to that of the beginning of the year, continuing its nuclear escalation even if it denies wanting to acquire the bomb, announced Tuesday 26 December the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Nuclear: Iran increases its production of enriched uranium to 60%

Iran has returned in recent weeks to a rate of production of uranium enriched to 60% similar to that of the beginning of the year, continuing its nuclear escalation even if it denies wanting to acquire the bomb, announced Tuesday 26 December the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“The country has increased its production of highly enriched uranium in recent weeks, after slowing the pace since mid-2023,” the IAEA said in a statement seen by Agence France -Press (AFP).

Iran has increased its production of 60% enriched uranium to around nine kilos per month since the end of November, which “represents an increase from the approximately three kilos produced per month since June and a return to monthly rate of nine kilos during the first half of 2023,” she said.

Slowing the pace of production to 60%, a threshold close to the 90% needed to make an atomic bomb, had been seen by experts as a gesture, as informal talks resumed with the United States.

Inspectors barred from access

In recent months, however, animosity has risen a notch with the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which Washington and Tehran mutually accuse each other of aggravating.

In November, a confidential IAEA report consulted by AFP concluded that stocks of enriched uranium in Iran exceeded twenty-two times the limit authorized by the 2015 international agreement governing Tehran's atomic activities, in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

The agreement fell apart following Washington's withdrawal in 2018, decided by then US President Donald Trump. His successor, Joe Biden, tried to revive it through discussions in Vienna, but they have been at a standstill since the summer of 2022.

Iran, which has moved closer to Moscow since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has also excluded IAEA inspectors and disconnected cameras necessary for monitoring its nuclear program.

It enriches at levels far from the cap set by the international community at 3.67%, equivalent to what is used in nuclear power plants for electricity generation. As of November, it had 567.1 kilos enriched to 20% and 128.3 kilos to 60%. That’s more than three times the material theoretically needed to make an atomic bomb, at a level of 90%.