Iran goes further in breaching nuclear deal, IAEA report shows

An Iranian cleric walks past a mural painting of the national flag.
An Iranian cleric walks past a mural painting of the national flag.PHOTO: AFP

VIENNA (REUTERS) - Iran has gone further in breaching its nuclear deal with world powers, increasing its stock of enriched uranium and refining it to a greater purity than allowed, the UN atomic agency report said on Friday (Aug 30).

The quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is policing the 2015 deal, confirms Iran is progressively backing out of the deal in retaliation for Washington's withdrawal form the accord and renewal of sanctions that have hit Iranian oil sales.

Iran has said it will breach the deal's limits on its nuclear activities one by one, ratcheting up pressure on parties who still hope to save it.

US President Donald Trump has offered to hold talks with Iran on a broader deal but Teheran says first it must get relief from US sanctions.

In July, the IAEA said Iran exceeded both a 202.8kg limit on its enriched uranium stock and its 3.67 per cent cap on the fissile purity to which it is allowed to refine uranium. In a verbal update on July 10, the IAEA said Iran was enriching uranium to 4.5 per cent purity and had stockpiled 213.5kg of enriched uranium.

Friday's quarterly report to member states obtained by Reuters said Iran has accumulated 241.6kg of enriched uranium and is enriching at around the same level as before, up to 4.5 per cent.

Iran's enriched uranium stock is still a fraction of the tonnes it possessed before the deal. Its enrichment level is also well short of the 20 per cent it reached before the deal and the roughly 90 per cent that is considered weapons-grade.

 
 
 
 

Its breaches have therefore not yet made much difference to the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb if it sought one. The deal - which set nuclear restrictions in exchange for sanctions relief - extended that time to roughly a year from a few months.

LOOMING DEADLINE

Iran has threatened to take further steps by Sept 6, such as enriching to 20 per cent or restarting mothballed centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium.

The report also hinted at less than ideal cooperation from Iran, saying: "Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran... require full and timely cooperation by Iran. The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran."

A senior diplomat added, however, that Iran had not changed its level of cooperation and IAEA inspectors were able to visit all the locations in the country they needed to.

The message was an encouragement to do more to help answer outstanding questions rather than provide access, he added, without elaborating.

Diplomats have often said Iran has dragged its feet while stopping short of crossing the IAEA's red lines.