Iranian Nuclear Official Says Won't Enrich Uranium Beyond 60 Percent Even if Talks Fail

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization head tells Russian state news that even if Iran does not return to the 2015 nuclear deal, it will not continue enriching uranium beyond 60 percent, below the 90 percent needed to produce nuclear arms

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Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami during a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi, in Tehran, Iran in November.
Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami during a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi, in Tehran, Iran in November.Credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/ REUTERS

Tehran does not intend to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent even if its nuclear talks with world powers fail, the head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization told Russian media on Saturday.

In an interview with Russia's state-owned Sputnik outlet, Mohammad Eslami was asked whether Iran will continue to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent if Iran does not return to the 2015 nuclear deal and sanctions are not lifted, to which he replied "no."

He also reiterated that the country's nuclear program is civilian in nature, and aims to support Iran's industrial production and consumer needs.

The seventh round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers to salvage the nuclear deal ended last week in Vienna, Austria, at Tehran's behest. Officials said Iran had requested the break, while Western powers had planned on staying until Tuesday, as the talks have made little discernible progress since they resumed earlier in December. The discussions are due to resume on Monday.

Tehran's envoys have sought changes to the outline of an agreement that had taken shape in six previous rounds of talks, leaving the negotiations largely deadlocked while Western powers warn that time is running out to rein in Iran's fast-advancing nuclear activities.

According to the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Islamic Republic can only enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, the level suitable for most civilian nuclear energy and far below the 90 percent suitable for a nuclear weapon.

The United States withdrew from this pact in 2018, and Iran pushed enrichment to 20 percent a year later. In April, the IAEA confirmed that Iran started enriching uranium to 60 percent fissile purity at an above-ground nuclear plant in Natanz.

According to intelligence shared by a number of countries, including Israel, the amount of uranium Iran has already enriched to 20-percent and 60-percent purity bring Tehran just a number of weeks away from having enough uranium to rapidly enrich it to 90 percent and build a bomb.

Iran made the step up to 60 percent in response to an explosion that damaged equipment at the larger, underground Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Tehran has blamed Israel and named a man wanted in connection with the blast.

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