The United Nations Atomic Energy Agency has reported a recent Iranian violation of the nuclear agreement.

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According to a report seen by Reuters, the UN atomic watchdog on Friday flagged a fresh violation by Iran of its nuclear pact with major powers on the day those powers met to renew the arrangement, potentially raising tensions with Western powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency refuses claiming Iran violated the agreement. Around the same time, such ad hoc notifications are usually only sent to member states in the case of a violation. According to two diplomats, the events outlined in the study constituted a new violation.

 

The violation concerns what qualifies technically as part of Iran’s arsenal of enriched uranium, a particularly controversial topic given that the stockpile could be enriched higher to weapons-grade content suited for nuclear bombs if Iran so chooses. It denies wanting such weapons and claims that its intentions are purely benevolent.

Following the agreement in 2015, the parties described what could count against the cache, excluding products such as scrap fuel plates with uranium enriched to near 20 percent fissile purity, which were considered “unrecoverable.” However, according to Friday’s article, Iran has recovered some of that content.

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“On 7 April 2021, the Agency verified at the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant at Esfahan that Iran had dissolved six unirradiated scrap fuel plates for the TRR (Tehran Research Reactor) containing 0.43 kg of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235,” the report said.

“A uranyl nitrate solution was extracted and converted into ammonium uranyl carbonate,” the report said, adding that Iran aimed to process that further to produce molybdenum, which has many civilian uses including in medical imaging.

Although the amount of enriched uranium removed is minimal, it represents a new violation at a critical juncture, as Tehran and the US are having indirect talks in Vienna about how they can completely return to the agreement.

Following the conclusion of talks among the remaining parties to the agreement on Friday, France’s Foreign Ministry said that a “positive” first week of negotiations should not be derailed by new Iranian provocations.

 

“In this context, it is all the more important that Iran refrain from any further violation of its nuclear commitments that could undermine the current dynamic,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters.

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Former UN weapons monitor and Iran hawk David Albright said the new leak poses concerns about what major powers omitted from the enriched uranium arsenal.

“Looking back, exempting this near 20% enriched uranium scrap was probably not a good idea,” he said, explaining what scrap means in this case: “When enriched uranium is made into fuel plates, some does not get used, somewhat like batter for a cake.”

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