The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday said it had detected uranium particles at an undeclared site in Iran. IAEA report says, “The agency detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the agency. The particles are understood to be the product of uranium which has been mined and undergone initial processing, but not enriched.”
The IAEA added that it was “essential for Iran to continue interactions with the agency to resolve the matter as soon as possible.”
Monday’s report also confirms that Iran has ramped up uranium enrichment, with its stockpile now reaching the equivalent of 551 kilogrammes, as opposed to the 300-kilogramme limit laid down in Iran’s 2015 deal with world powers.
A Vienna-based diplomat said the rate of production of enriched uranium had gone up substantially to more than 100 kilogrammes a month, and could increase further.
Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful and that acquiring nuclear weapons would be contrary to Islamic principles.
On Sunday, Iran and Russia inaugurated a new phase of construction for a second reactor at Iran’s sole nuclear power plant in Bushehr on the Gulf coast. The reactor is one of two officially under construction since 2017 at the Bushehr site that is around 750 kilometres (460 miles) south of Tehran. As part of the 2015 agreement, Moscow provides Tehran with the fuel it needs for its electricity-generating nuclear reactors.
Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron said Iran had made "grave" decisions and its resumption of uranium enrichment was a "profound change" from Tehran's previous position.
Iran has been locked in a standoff with the United States and its Gulf Arab allies since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal that gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, whose board of trustees includes President Hassan Rouhani, as well as Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran’s defence ministry.