Iran Nuclear Talks Resume in Vienna as Tehran Expands Enrichment
Those positions could doom the talks.
Iranian officials have been trying to offer optimistic assessments of the negotiations while blaming the U.S. for the deadlock. They may be worried that a collapse of the talks could send the country’s rial currency plunging to new lows.
Iran struck the nuclear deal in 2015 with the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of U.N. inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018, saying he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the deal’s terms a year later.
As of the last public IAEA count, Iran has a stockpile of some 3,800 kilograms (8,370 pounds) of enriched uranium. More worrying for nonproliferation experts, Iran now enriches uranium up to 60% purity — a level it had not reached before. That is a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
Those experts warn Iran has enough 60% enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one bomb. However, Iran still would need to design a bomb and a delivery system for it, likely a monthslong project.
Iran maintains its program is for peaceful purposes, though its officials increasingly are discussing the country’s ability to build a nuclear bomb if it chose — previously a taboo topic there.
Meanwhile Thursday, U.N. inspectors at the IAEA said that they had verified that Iran had begun feeding uranium gas into two IR-1 cascades previously unused at its underground Natanz facility. Those cascades will enrich uranium up to 5%.
The IAEA inspectors also verified that Iran had completed installation of three advanced IR-6 cascades at the plant, each comprising up to 176 centrifuges. The IAEA said those cascades had yet to be fed uranium. Iran also told the IAEA it planned to install six more IR-2M cascades in a new operating unit at Natanz, inspectors said.