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Iran has begun producing enriched uranium at 60 per cent purity at the country's underground Fordo nuclear plant, official media reported on Tuesday, describing it as a response to a resolution by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
The increased enrichment, reported by the official news agency IRNA, was seen as a significant addition to the country's nuclear programme.
Enrichment to 60 per cent purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent.
Iran is already enriching to 60per cent purity at its Natanz nuclear facility in central Iran. Fordo is some 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of the capital of Tehran.
IRNA did not give details on the amount of the enriched uranium being produced.
On Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said his country took the steps in reaction to what he said was a resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog. Officials did not elaborate.
Earlier this month, the IAEA said it believes that Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. As recently as last week, the agency criticised Tehran for continuing to bar the agency's officials from accessing or monitoring Iranian nuclear sites.
A separate report said IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi is seriously concerned that Iran has still not engaged on the agency's probe into man-made uranium particles found at three undeclared sites in the country.
The issue has become a key sticking point in the talks for a renewed nuclear deal.
It has been nearly two years since IAEA officials have had full access to monitor Iran's nuclear sites, and five months since the surveillance equipment was removed.
The IAEA's assessment came as efforts to revive Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which eased sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, have stalled.
The United States unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA in 2018, under then-President Donald Trump. It reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start backing away from the deal's terms.
The semi-underground enrichment facility in Natanz is home to thousands of centrifuge machines.
Iran began 60 per cent enrichment in Natanz in 2019.
Natanz was target of sabotage in 2021 , an explosion that hit new halls for installing centrifuge machines as Iran called that a nuclear terrorism and a shadow war between Tehran and Israel, the prime suspect in the sabotage, raged.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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First Published: Tue, November 22 2022. 16:05 IST