This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Britain, France, and Germany — three of the signatories of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — have expressed serious concern over the UN’s nuclear watchdog reporting that Tehran has produced uranium metal and stepped up production of weapons-grade enriched uranium in violation of the deal.
“We, the governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, note with grave concern the latest reports by the IAEA confirming that Iran has produced uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent for the first time, and has significantly increased its production capacity of uranium enriched up to 60 percent,” said a joint statement from the Foreign ministries of the three nations that was released by the German Foreign Ministry.
The IAEA said on August 16 that Iran has for the first time produced 200 grams of uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent and followed up with a report to member states on August 17 saying that Iran is enriching uranium to 60 percent purity using a second cascade of centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility.
Under the 2015 nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran committed to not produce uranium metal, which can be used to build the core of a nuclear bomb.
But earlier this year, in one of a series of steps it took in violation of the JCPOA after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal and reimposed sanctions, Iran said it was researching uranium metal for a new type of reactor fuel.
U.S. President Joe Biden says he wants to return to the deal, but indirect talks in Vienna brokered by the Europeans to get both Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the accord have stalled.
Iran on August 18 confirmed the IAEA report about its expanded production of uranium to 60 percent purity, saying the actions are in response to the “nonimplementation” of the nuclear agreement and U.S. sanctions.
Ninety percent is considered weapons-grade, although other technical steps are needed to create a deliverable nuclear bomb.
“Iran must halt activities in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) without delay,” the three European powers said in their joint statement.
“We urge Iran to return to the negotiations in Vienna as soon as possible with a view to bringing them to a swift, successful conclusion. We have repeatedly stressed that time is on no-one’s side,” it added.