Iran enriches uranium to levels only bomb-making countries reach, warns UN nuclear watchdog


  • UN nuclear watchdog has sounded the alarm Iranthe enrichment of uranium.
  • Rafael Grossi told the Financial Times that this is at a level that “only the countries that make bombs reach.”
  • “You can’t put genie back in the bottle,” Grossi warned.

Iran enriches uranium to levels of purity that “only countries that make bombs achieve,” warned the UN nuclear watchdog in an interview with the Financial Times.

“A country that gets 60% richer is a very serious thing – only countries that make bombs reach this level,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told The Times.

“Sixty percent is almost military grade, the commercial enrichment is 2.3 [percent]”Said Grossi.” It is a degree that requires a watchful eye. “As part of the 2015 nuclear deal, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran has agreed to limit uranium enrichment to 3.67%.

Then president Donald trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in May 2018, reimposing sanctions against Iran. The decision to withdraw from the deal, combined with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, has pushed tensions between Washington and Tehran to historic highs.

Iran remained in compliance with the deal until about a year after Trump pulled out, but then gradually began to move away from it.


After Trump in January 2020 ordered a drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, the Iranian government effectively abandoned the JCPOA altogether. The fallout from the dismantling of the deal and Soleimani’s strike raised fears of yet another war in the Middle East, although both sides ultimately withdrew from a larger confrontation.

In April 2021, Iran announced that it was enriching up to 60% uranium. The weapon quality levels are close to 90%. Iran has also developed more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium faster. “You can’t put genius back in the bottle – once you know how to do it, you know, and the only way to verify that is to verify,” Grossi told The Times. “The Iranian program has grown, has become more sophisticated, so that the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the parameters of 2015.”

President Joe Biden has made reviving the JCPOA, negotiated while he was vice president in the Obama administration, a top priority. The JCPOA was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran has always said it has no ambition to develop a nuclear weapon. But France, Germany and the UK, all signatories to the JCPOA, said last month Iran had “no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level.”

An annual threat assessment released by the US intelligence community last month, however, stated that “Iran is not currently undertaking the major nuclear weapons development activities that we deem necessary to produce a nuclear device.” .

At the moment, American and Iranian diplomats are engaged in indirect talks in Vienna – with the help of European intermediaries – aimed at restoring the JCPOA. Iran has insisted that the United States must lift the sanctions before fully returning to the deal. But the Biden administration has maintained it will not ease sanctions until Iran shows it is back in compliance with the terms of the 2015 deal.

The overall goal of the Vienna talks is to reach an agreement that would see the two countries simultaneously return to compliance with the JCPOA. Although disagreements remain, all parties involved have said the talks have shown positive signs.

Iran this week agreed to a one-month extension of limited inspections of its nuclear activities by the IAEA, giving momentum to the Vienna talks. Negotiators in Vienna began a fifth and potentially final talks on Tuesday.

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