Iran said on Thursday it has significantly increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, in an announcement that comes ahead of the resumption of talks on its return to the 2015 deal with world powers.
“We have more than 210 kilograms (463 pounds) of uranium enriched to 20 percent, and we’ve produced 25 kilos (55 pounds) at 60 percent, a level that no country apart from those with nuclear arms are able to produce,” said Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, according to the IRNA news agency.
In August, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran has established a process to accelerate production of highly enriched uranium at its Natanz enrichment plant.
The move brought Iran closer to the 90 percent purity level needed for use in a nuclear weapon.
In April, the Islamic Republic announced it would begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, a move that would take the uranium much closer to the 90% suitable for a nuclear bomb.
Despite its scaling back of its compliance with the deal, the previous Iranian government, headed by former President Hassan Rouhani, had been holding indirect talks with the Biden administration on a return to the agreement.
However, the negotiations were adjourned on June 20, two days after Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election, and no date has been set for a resumption of dialogue.
On Wednesday, an Iranian diplomat said that the negotiations will restart November 29 in Vienna.
In response, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said negotiations should pick up exactly where they left off and expressed optimism that outstanding issues could be resolved swiftly.
“We’ve said this many times before, but we believe it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by closing the relatively small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of June when the sixth round concluded,” Price said.
He warned, however, that the US feels time is running short to reach an agreement.
“We believe that if the Iranians are serious, we can manage to do that in relatively short order, but we’ve also been clear, including as this pause has dragged on for some time, that this window of opportunity will not be open forever, and that, especially if Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps,” Price stated.