In Brief: Iran nuclear talks continue as enrichment increases

Negotiations about Iranian Nuclear Program, US State Department, Public domain.

Discussions to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal continued this weekend, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran was enriching uranium to 60 percent fissile purity.

The IAEA announced it had “verified that Iran has begun the production of UF6, enriched up to 60% U-235, by feeding UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235 simultaneously into two cascades of IR-4 centrifuges and IR-6 centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant”.

UF6 is uranium hexafluoride – the form of uranium fed into centrifuges for enrichment. This represents a significant step towards weapons-grade uranium from the 20 percent Iran has previously achieved. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent purity.

US president Joe Biden, who has pledged to reverse the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, expressed his frustration with Tehran, saying the enrichment increase was “not at all helpful”.

Developments in Iran came as talks to reintegrate the US and Iran into the deal took place in Vienna. Tehran’s chief negotiator Abbas Araqchi struck a positive tone on Sunday, saying that “a new understanding appears to be emerging”.

Biden likewise welcomed progress in Vienna, though warned that it would be “premature to make a judgement as to what the outcome will be”.