Iran Outlines Bid for Stockpile of 20% Enriched Uranium

Iran’s able to produce 8 to 9 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20% each month, a top official said Tuesday, in the first detailed account of a major extension to the country’s nuclear program that’s stoked tensions in the region.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told state TV the agency would be able to stockpile the annual target of 120 kg (265 pounds) set by parliament.

The organization has enough fuel to run the centrifuges producing the 20% uranium at its Fordow facility for five years, he added.

Iran restarted production of the more highly enriched uranium on Monday as it pushes back against sweeping U.S. economic penalties, alarming European signatories to the 2015 deal that had curbed Tehran’s enrichment activities in return for sanctions relief.

The move has provided ammunition for regional foes, led by Israel, that say the Islamic Republic is intent on building nuclear weapons.

“We note with grave concern the measures taken by Iran,” Peter Stano, foreign-policy spokesman at the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, told reporters on Tuesday in Brussels.

“It is important to avoid all measures that could jeopardize the preservation of this agreement.”

European nations hope to preserve what’s left of the multilateral agreement with Joe Biden just two weeks away from entering the White House having vowed to rejoin the pact abandoned by the Trump administration.

Iran has long denied any military dimension to its atomic program and insists that its activities are for civilian purposes. It has continued to allow stringent United Nations inspections called for in the nuclear pact, which world powers sought because they were suspicious of Iran’s ambitions.

Even when Iran does gain a stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, it would still be a way from accumulating all the components required for a weapon.

Uranium must be enriched to 90% to build warheads, though lesser levels would be considered significant steps toward that capability. Iran started breaching enrichment levels in July 2019 in response to President Donald Trump leaving the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions.

Fordow is an underground nuclear facility that Iran had been turning into a research center after halting enrichment there under the terms of the 2015 deal.

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