Iran begins manufacturing process for enriched uranium metal; United States, E3 dismayed

VIENNA / WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) – Iran has started the process of producing enriched uranium metal, the UN atomic watchdog said on Tuesday, a move that could help it develop a weapon nuclear power and that three European powers have said they are threatening talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Iran’s measures, which were disclosed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and which Tehran said aimed at developing fuel for a research reactor, also drew criticism from the United States. , who called them an “unhappy flashback”.

U.S. and European officials have made it clear that Iran’s move will complicate, and potentially torpedo, indirect U.S.-Iranian talks aimed at bringing the two countries back into compliance with the 2015 agreement, which was abandoned by the former US President Donald Trump.

The deal placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to make it harder for Tehran to develop fissile material for nuclear weapons in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. After Trump’s withdrawal, Iran began to violate many of its restrictions.

Tehran has already produced a small amount of uranium metal this year which has not been enriched. This is a violation of the agreement, which prohibits all work on uranium metal since it can be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb. Read more

“Today Iran informed the Agency that UO2 (uranium oxide) enriched up to 20% in U-235 will be shipped to the R&D laboratory of the fuel fabrication plant in Isfahan. , where it would be converted into UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) then into uranium metal enriched to 20% in U-235, before using it to manufacture the fuel, “said an IAEA press release.

A confidential IAEA report seen by Reuters said the agency had confirmed that Iran had taken the second of the four measures described, making it clear that it had started the process.

Britain, France and Germany said on Tuesday they were “gravely concerned” over Iran’s move, which violates the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Read more

“Iran has no credible civilian need for R&D and production of uranium metal, which is a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon,” they said in a joint statement issued by the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs.

“With its latest measures, Iran threatens to lead to the Vienna talks despite the progress made during the six rounds of negotiations,” they said, and urged Iran to resume talks, which began in April and adjourned June 20. No date has been set for a next round.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington is not setting a deadline for the talks, but noted “that over time Iran’s nuclear advances will affect our vision of the return to the JCPOA “.

Price said the United States finds it “worrying” that Iran continues to violate the agreement “especially with experiments that have value for nuclear weapons research.

“This is another unfortunate step backwards for Iran,” he said.

Reporting by François Murphy in Vienna and Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Jonathan Landay and Simon Lewis in Washington and David Milliken in London; Written by François Murphy and Arshad Mohammed Editing by David Goodman and Sonya Hepinstall

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