By Francois Murphy
VIENNA, April 17 (Reuters) – Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to 60% fissile purity at an aerial nuclear power plant in Natanz, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Saturday, confirming previous statements by Iranian officials.
The move complicated talks to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with the big powers, as it is a big step forward towards the production of military-grade uranium.
Iran had previously only achieved 20% purity, and that was already a violation of the agreement, which says Iran can only enrich to 3.67%.
Iran jumped up to 60% in response to an explosion that damaged equipment at Natanz’s largest underground fuel enrichment plant. Tehran blamed Israel and named a wanted man in connection with the explosion.
“The Agency today verified that Iran has started production of 60% enriched UF6 … at the pilot (aboveground) fuel enrichment plant in Natanz,” the Agency said. International Atomic Energy Commission in a press release.
UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is introduced into centrifuges for enrichment.
A confidential IAEA report to member states seen by Reuters provided more details.
According to Iran’s statement to the Agency, the enrichment level of UF6 produced at PFEP was 55.3% U-235. The Agency took a sample of the UF6 produced for destructive analysis in order to independently verify the level of enrichment declared by Iran. The results of this analysis will be reported by the Agency in due course, ”the report said. (Reporting by François Murphy; Editing by Kevin Liffey and John Stonestreet)