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Iran has announced it is now enriching uranium at a 60 percent purity level at its Fordow underground nuclear facility after the United Nations nuclear watchdog (IAEA) condemned Tehran's failure to cooperate over visits by the agency.
The official state-run news agency IRNA reported on November 22 that the Fordow site, which is buried in the side of a mountain, was producing uranium with an enrichment level of 60 percent -- one technical step away from weapons-grade levels -- "for the first time."
Iran already produces uranium at 60 percent at two other plants.
IRNA did not say how much of the 60 percent enriched uranium had been produced at Fordow.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Iran has also begun to replace first-generation centrifuges (IR-1) with advanced IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow, which would allow it to escalate its enrichment activities further.
An IAEA board of governors meeting last week in Vienna criticized Iran for failing to allow inspections of nuclear sites, while the agency's chief, Rafael Grossi, recently said he is "seriously concerned" over uncertainty surrounding Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran claims is purely for civilian purposes.
Exacerbating tensions, the IAEA has been waiting for an explanation from Tehran about the origin of undeclared uranium particles that were detected at three locations. The issue has been a key sticking point in wider talks between Iran and global powers seeking to revive a 2015 deal that curbs Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from Western sanctions.
The United States unilaterally pulled out of the accord in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered Iran's economy and its currency. After Washington withdrew, Iran began to breach some of the pact's nuclear limits, saying they could no longer be enforced.
The deal capped enrichment at 3.67 percent.
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