Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Financial Times that the situation was “of great concern” as Iran’s nuclear program had become more sophisticated over the past two years.
“A country that gets 60% richer is a very serious thing – only countries that make bombs reach that level,” Grossi said. “Sixty percent is almost military grade, the commercial enrichment is 2.3 [per cent]. »
In an interview, he said it was Iran’s “sovereign right” to develop its curriculum, but added: “It’s a degree that requires a watchful eye. ”
Iran has been stepping up nuclear activity since May 2019 in response to Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the atomic deal Tehran signed with world powers and to impose crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Tehran announced last month that it was enriching uranium to a purity level of 60% – its highest level ever – which far exceeds the purity of 3.67% agreed in the nuclear deal of 2015. He continued to increase his nuclear business while holding talks with the remaining signatories of the agreement – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia – to negotiate a deal that would lead the United States to join the agreement.
President Joe Biden has said his administration will join if Iran returns to full compliance. Tehran insists that US sanctions must first be lifted. All parties said the talks were constructive. A fifth round began in Vienna on Tuesday.
Iran repeatedly denies that it is seeking nuclear weapons. He told the IAEA that his increased uranium enrichment was for medical and research purposes, Grossi said. But he added, “We don’t seem to find much need for this at the current level of industrial and medical activity in Iran, but that is for a country to decide.”
Iran honored the agreement before May 2019, but over the next two years it increased the number of operating centrifuges from the agreed limit of 5,060 to 7,000. It also developed new centrifuges to produce faster enriched uranium. “Qualitatively, there has been an important breakthrough,” Grossi said.
Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was now more than 10 times the 300kg limit agreed to in the deal, he said.
Grossi said most measures taken by Tehran could be reversed relatively easily, but added that the level of research and development that had taken place was a “problem”.
“You can’t put genius back in the bottle – once you know how to do it, you know, and the only way to verify that is to verify,” he said. “The Iranian program has grown, has become more sophisticated, so that the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the 2015 parameters. ”
Iran imposed restrictions on IAEA inspectors in February. But as part of a compromise deal that was extended this week to six days after the June presidential elections, it allowed some oversight, while still limiting short-notice inspections. Grossi described the extension as a “bridge”, but said the arrangement would ultimately be “unsustainable”.
“We are entering a phase that we must go through. . . one week at a time, and see how the other process [the Vienna negotiations] evolves, ”said Grossi. “Obviously, with a program with Iran’s level of ambition and sophistication, you need a very robust and very strong verification system. . . otherwise, it becomes very fragile. ”