The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that it has detected particles of uranium enriched to 83.7% in Iran, just below the 90% needed to produce an atomic bomb, according to a report consulted on Tuesday by the AFP. They were discovered following the collection of samples in January in the underground factory of Fordo, specified the UN body, which thus confirms information given by diplomatic sources. The IAEA has requested “clarifications” and “discussions are still ongoing” to determine the origin of these particles, adds the report which will be presented next week at the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna.
Iran, which denies wanting to acquire atomic weapons, for its part reported “involuntary fluctuations” during the enrichment process, in a letter to the Agency. Last week, Tehran claimed “not to have made any attempt to enrich beyond 60%”. “The presence of particles beyond 60% does not mean that there is an enrichment (of uranium) to more than 60%”, reacted the spokesman of the Iranian Nuclear Energy Organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi.
A stock above the authorized limit
This information comes as negotiations to revive the agreement reached in 2015 to limit Iran’s atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions have stalled. They had started in April 2021 in Vienna between Tehran and the great powers, but they have been blocked since August 2022 in a context of growing tensions. The agreement, known by the acronym of JCPOA, has been moribund since the withdrawal of the United States decided in 2018 by President Donald Trump. In the process, the Islamic Republic gradually freed itself from its commitments.
Its total stock of enriched uranium thus amounted to 3,760.8 kg on February 12 (against 3,673.7 kg in October), more than 18 times the limit authorized by the JCPOA, according to estimates by the IAEA. Above all, Iran is always enriching at high levels, far from the limit set at 3.67%: it thus has 434.7 kg at 20% (against 386.4 kg previously) and 87.5 kg at 60 % (against 62.3 kgs).