Iran Inches Closer to Nuclear Weapon? Says Enriching Uranium to 60% Purity at Fordow

With the Iran nuclear deal in limbo, Tehran is moving closer to building a nuclear bomb, reports show. In the latest development, Iran has said it is enriching uranium to 60 percent purity at the Fordow nuclear site.

"In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has informed the agency that it has started enriching uranium to 60% purity at Fordow site," Iranian news agency ISNA said, citing officials. Iranian authorities have said the start of enrichment at Fordow is a retaliatory measure against the IAEA's demand to curb uranium enrichment.

Natanz Nuclear Facility
Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant in Iran Twitter

New Centrifuges

Iran also said it has installed two new IR2M and IR4 centrifuges at the Natanz and Fordow nuclear facilities.

In July, the UN nuclear watchdog had said that Iran possessed 43 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent. This quantity would be technically enough to build one nuclear weapon.

Uranium needs to be enriched to 90 percent to make weapons grade fissile material. However, with the nuclear deal falling apart, Iran has been able to advance rapidly in its secretive nuclear pursuit. Iran was enriching uranium to 20 percent levels before the deal with the western powers. Under the deal, Iran is mandated to limit uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent.

The 2015 deal had also agreed that Fordow would become a research center, where Iran would not be installing higher grade centrifuges that spin enriched uranium into higher levels of purity.

The US withdrew from the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, giving Iran an opportunity to accelerate its nuclear pursuit

Bushehr Nuclear Plant, Iran
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi in Bushehr Nuclear Plant. Hossein Heidarpour / Wikimedia Commons

In July, a senior Iranian leader revealed that the country is technically capable of making a nuclear bomb. The senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran can make the nuclear bomb but has not decided whether to go ahead or not.

"Iran has the technical ability to build a nuclear bomb ... but has not made a decision to build an atomic bomb", said Kamal Kharrazi. He also said Iran has conducted extensive preparations that make it capable of striking 'deep inside Israel' is Iranian nuclear sites are targeted by Tel Aviv.

Experts believe that the fact that Iran is deploying advanced centrifuges in its nuclear facilities shows that Tehran is moving rapidly to possess nuclear weapons capabilities. Now that Iran is stockpiling uranium of higher purity, it only takes Tehran a few more months to design a bomb and delivery system.

Nuclear Talks a Cover?

Meanwhile, an overseas Iranian resistance group has said that Tehran is using the nuclear negotiations as a cover for the relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) adds that Iran is close to building a nuclear weapon and has been making incremental progress all these years.

NCRI is based in Paris, but the organization works with the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK, which has operatives inside Iran who gather sensitive information on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

"The Iranian resistance, mainly the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, have been the key factor, the key player that has brought the issue of the Iranian nuclear program to the international attention," said Shahin Gobadi, the spokesperson for NCRI.