Britain said it was “deeply concerned” after Iran’s latest breach of the 2015 nuclear deal took it a step closer to being able to develop atomic weapons.
Tehran said it has started developing uranium metal-based fuel, a sensitive material that can be used in the core of a nuclear bomb and is specifically banned in the 2015 accord with world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“We are deeply concerned by Iran’s latest move to produce uranium-metal fuel,” said a spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
“This is a further step in Iran’s continued and systematic non-compliance with its nuclear commitments under the JCPoA. There is no justifiable civilian need for this. Iran must return to compliance if it is serious about preserving the deal,” they added.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said its director Rafael Grossi had “informed IAEA Member States about recent developments regarding Iran’s plans to conduct R & D activities on uranium metal production as part of its declared aim to design an improved type of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor”.
Iran has also begun enriching uranium to 20 per cent, a level it last reached before the 2015 deal
Tehran began breaching the JCPoA in 2019 after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and renewed sanctions on Iran.
But Tehran has accelerated its breaches of the deal in recent months and is pressing for the US to remove sanctions.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office next week, has said he wants to return his country to the JCPoA, but only if Iran returns to full compliance.
It comes as officials from France, Germany and the UK, known as the E3, are reportedly visiting countries in the Arabian Gulf to discuss the nuclear deal before the inauguration of Mr Biden.
The E3 has repeatedly tried to save the nuclear deal and pledged to preserve it.