IAEA warns of further nuclear deal violations by Iran

07 July 2021

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has informed the agency's Board of Governors that Iran intends to use indigenously-produced uranium enriched up to 20% U-235 in the manufacture of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), an IAEA spokesperson told World Nuclear News today. In doing so, as part of a multi-stage process, Iran will also produce uranium metal enriched up to 20% U-235.

Kazzem Qaribabadi, Iran's ambassador and permanent representative to Vienna-based international organisations (Image: Fars news agency)

Grossi gave the update in his latest report on the IAEA's monitoring and verification in Iran related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).

Iran informed the agency that UO2 enriched up to 20% U-235 would be shipped to the R&D laboratory at the Fuel Fabrication Plant in Esfahan, where it would be converted to UF4 and then to uranium metal enriched to 20% U-235, before using it to manufacture the fuel, the IAEA spokesperson said.

The Foreign Ministers of the governments of France, Germany and the UK - known as the E3 - noted "with grave concern" this latest report by the IAEA. The production of enriched uranium metal is "a serious violation" of Iran’s commitments under the JCPoA, they said.

"Iran has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon," they said in a joint statement yesterday.

"This further step in Iran’s escalation of its nuclear violations is all the more concerning at a time when no date has been set for the continuation of the negotiations in Vienna on a return to the JCPoA. This also takes place in the context of Iran having significantly curtailed IAEA accesses through withdrawing from JCPoA agreed monitoring arrangements and ceasing application of the Additional Protocol."

The ministers "strongly urge" Iran to halt all activities in violation of the JCPoA, without delay, and to return to the negotiations in Vienna "with a view to bringing them to a swift conclusion".

With its latest steps, Iran is threatening a successful outcome to the Vienna talks despite the progress achieved in six rounds of negotiations to date, they said.

In response to a similar statement by the E3 in January, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) said: "The issue of the factory producing uranium metal, which is stipulated in Article 4 of 'The Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect the Iranian Nation's Rights Act' and which the AEOI is obliged to do as instructed by the Parliament, and the issue of the production of advanced fuel (silicide) to be used at the Tehran Research Reactor are two completely different issues."

In December last year, the Majles, the Iranian parliament, passed a law that requires the AEOI to produce at least 120 kg of 20% enriched uranium annually at the Fordow nuclear site. The law also stipulates that Iran will no longer be bound by the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol it had signed with the IAEA, meaning that access to its nuclear sites by international inspectors would cease.

Kazzem Qaribabadi, Iran's ambassador and permanent representative to Vienna-based international organisations, said yesterday that "the uranium silicide plate enriched to 20% purity" would be used as fuel for the TRR.

"Research and development regarding this issue with natural uranium began about three months ago. In the new process, a new fuel plate will be produced using 20% enriched uranium,” he told reporters inTehran, according to Fars news agency. "This measure, which will significantly improve the quality and quantity of radiopharmaceutical production, will make the Islamic Republic of Iran one of the leading countries in the field of nuclear technology,” Qaribabadi added.

He also said that the IAEA had been informed of this "nine days earlier" and the operation had started immediately.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News