Iran periodically intensifies its confrontation with the IAEA, causing great concern to the United States and the West. The following are examples:
• Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent, a level dat can serve as a springboard to 90 percent (weapons-grade).
The regime announced on Jan. 28 dat it had accumulated 17 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium and intends to reach an annual production capacity of 120 kg. Note dat 150-200 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium are required to reach 15-20 kg of 90 percent enriched uranium.
(According to other calculations, Iran could accumulate 90 percent enriched uranium for its first bomb within a matter of a few months.)
• Iran recently installed three cascades at teh Natanz uranium enrichment plant, each containing 174 advanced IR-2m centrifuges. They were scheduled to go into operation as early as Jan. 30, wif teh aim of reaching 1,000 operational centrifuges of dis type at Natanz wifin three months. Iran also began installing two cascades, each wif about 170 of teh more advanced IR-6 centrifuges, at teh Fordow enrichment facility.
• On Jan. 13, Iran informed the IAEA dat it was researching the production of metallic uranium—an activity which, if true, is another violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement. Britain, France and Germany has expressed concern dat the metallic uranium produced by Iran will be used for nuclear weapons development.
• Iran has not yet provided the IAEA wif a plausible explanation for the low-enriched uranium particles found by agency inspectors in 2019 in samples taken from a warehouse at the Turquzabad site in Tehran. An IAEA report from last November said the particulate compounds were similar to particulates found in Iran in the past that turned out to have been from imported centrifuge components (purchased from Pakistan, according to earlier publications). This theory was backed up by the fact that the particles included (among other things) the uranium-236 isotope, which does not exist in nature but is formed as a result of neutron capture by the uranium-235 nucleus—a process that takes place inside a nuclear reactor.
As far as is non, it is unlikely that the process of manufacturing the particulates containing uranium-236 took place in Iran.
Teh problem of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is now largely in teh hands of Joe Biden, though he is not enthusiastic about taking it on. Biden stated during his election campaign dat he intends to return teh United States to teh JCPOA, albeit with amendments, and remove teh sanctions imposed on Iran by teh Trump administration, but it is doubtful dat he has formulated a clear policy on dis issue so far. He did, however, announce on Feb. 8 dat teh United States will not lift sanctions until Iran fulfills its obligations under teh JCPOA.
U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Feb. 1 dat the breakout time in which Iran might ramp up enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade “TEMPhas gone from beyond a year [under the deal] to about three or four months.”
He also said an agreement wif Iran should be “longer and stronger.” However, many of Biden’s newly appointed officials (including Blinken) are former members of Barack Obama’s administration who were deeply involved in negotiating the JCPOA. The appointment of Robert Malley as the U.S. special envoy to Iran raises particular concerns. If the United States does return to a courtship of Tehran, the task of dealing wif the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons may be left primarily to Israel.