UN nuclear inspectors visit Iran after standoff

Teheran's enriched uranium stock has risen to over 10 times the limit set in 2015 deal: Report

VIENNA • Iran has let the UN nuclear watchdog inspect one of the two sites it agreed last month to grant access to after a protracted standoff, while Teheran's stockpile of enriched uranium has risen further, quarterly reports by the agency said on Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspected one of the sites and took environmental samples there, one of the two reports obtained by Reuters said, referring to samples aimed at detecting traces of nuclear material that may have been present.

The agency's inspectors will visit the other site "later in September 2020 on a date already agreed with Iran, to take environmental samples", the report said.

The other report said that Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) rose by 534kg in the most recent quarter, roughly the same amount as in the previous three months, to 2,105.4kg. That is more than 10 times the 202.8kg limit set by Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with big powers, which Iran has been breaching in response to Washington's withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of sanctions against Teheran.

The stockpile, however, remains far below the many tonnes of enriched uranium Iran had accumulated before the 2015 deal. Teheran is enriching up to a fissile purity of 4.5 per cent, which, while above the deal's 3.67 per cent limit, is still far short of the 20 per cent level it achieved before the deal.

Roughly 90 per cent purity is considered weapons-grade, suitable for an atomic bomb.

Iran agreed on Aug 26, during the first visit to Teheran by IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi, to allow access for United Nations inspectors to two sites suspected of once hosting covert uranium conversion and nuclear testing activities.

While the IAEA says it has the right to examine such sites without permission, Iran objected because at least some of the information about them came from a trove of documents on its past activities that Teheran's main Middle East adversary, Israel, says it seized inside Iran.

Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani yesterday bemoaned Iran's friends for not standing up to the United States and breaking crippling sanctions during the coronavirus pandemic.

He also said that if the US had a "bit of humanity or brain", it would have lifted sanctions on Iran for the duration of the health crisis.

The United States has threatened to impose sanctions on whoever conducts business with Iran.

The sanctions are part of the US effort to slash Iranian revenues after US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Iran, with more than 380,000 registered cases and over 22,000 deaths from Covid-19, is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East.

"Over the past months since the coronavirus arrived in our country... no one came to our help," Mr Rouhani said in remarks broadcast live on Iranian state television.

At the same time, he said, "not a single friendly country told us that in this time of coronavirus and hardship and for the sake of humanity 'we will stand up to America'" and do business with Iran despite threats of US retaliation.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2020, with the headline 'UN nuclear inspectors visit Iran after standoff'. Print Edition | Subscribe