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Iran starts enriching uranium to 60%, its highest level ever

AP/Tehran
Filed on April 16, 2021
A satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Planet Labs via AP)

The announcement also marks a significant escalation after the sabotage that damaged centrifuges.


Iran began enriching uranium to up to 60% purity on Friday, its highest level ever, after an attack targeted its Natanz nuclear site, the country’s parliament speaker said.

The comment by Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, quoted by state television, did not elaborate on the amount Iran planned to enrich. However, it is likely to raise tensions even as Iran negotiates with world powers in Vienna over a way to allow the US back into the agreement and lift the crushing economic sanctions it faces.

The announcement also marks a significant escalation after the sabotage that damaged centrifuges.

“The will of the Iranian nation is a miracle-maker and it will defuse any conspiracy,” state television quoted Qalibaf as saying. He said the enrichment began just after midnight Friday.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, the country’s civilian nuclear arm, later acknowledged the move to 60%, according to state TV. Ali Akbar Salehi said more details would be forthcoming and declined to further elaborate.

It wasn’t clear why the first announcement came from Qalibaf, a hard-line former leader in the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard already named as a potential presidential candidate in Iran’s upcoming June election.

While 60% is higher than any level Iran previously enriched uranium, it is still lower than weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Iran had been enriching up to 20% — even that was a short technical step to weapons grade. The deal limited Iran’s enrichment to 3.67%.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier this week, it sent its inspectors to Natanz and confirmed Iran was preparing to begin 60% enrichment at an above-ground facility at the site.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, though the West and the IAEA say Tehran had an organised military nuclear program up until the end of 2003. An annual U.S. intelligence report released Tuesday maintained the American assessment that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device.”





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