Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of its deal with world powers, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Friday, according to The Associated Press.
The United Nations’ atomic watchdog reported the finding in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by AP.
The agency said that as of May 20, Iran’s total stockpile of low-enriched uranium amounted to 1,571.6 kilograms (1.73 tons), up from 1,020.9 kilograms (1.1 tons) on February 19.
Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, it allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).
However, Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.
The IAEA said in its report that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the JCPOA. It is also above the pact’s limitations on heavy water.
The ultimate goal of the JCPOA is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Since the US withdrawal, Iran has stockpiled enough uranium to produce a weapon, although the government in Tehran insists it has no such goal and that its atomic program is only for producing energy.
According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need roughly 1050 kilograms (1.16 tons) of low-enriched uranium — under 5% purity — and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90% purity, to make a nuclear weapon.
With the nuclear deal in place, Iran’s so-called breakout time — the period Tehran would need to build a bomb if it chose to — stood at around a year. As Iran has stepped away from the limits of the 2015 deal, it slowly has narrowed that window.
Iran is now in violation of all restrictions outlined by the JCPOA, according to AP. Though it has been hard hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, the IAEA said it has maintained its verification and monitoring activities in the country, primarily by chartering aircraft to fly inspectors to and from Iran.
The agency cited “exceptional cooperation” from authorities in Austria, where it is based, and Iran in facilitating the operation.
The agency raised concerns, however, about access to two of three locations it identified in March as places where Iran possibly stored undeclared nuclear material or undertook nuclear-related activities without declaring them to international observers.
The IAEA has for months been pressing Tehran for information about the kind of activities being carried out at an undeclared site where the uranium particles were found.
While the IAEA has not identified the site in question, it is believed to be the Turquzabad facility which was identified by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his address before the UN General Assembly in 2018 as a “secret atomic warehouse.”