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UN report finds Iran taking steps to produce key component of nuclear warheads

UN report finds Iran taking steps to produce key component of nuclear warheads
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A United Nations report determined that Iran is taking steps to produce uranium metal, a key component of nuclear warheads, in violation of the nuclear agreement with several countries. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report on Wednesday obtained by The Wall Street Journal that said Iran told the agency it has started developing equipment to produce uranium metal in Isfahan in the next few months.

The U.N.’s watchdog confirmed the discovery, saying that Iran said its work on uranium metal production is part of its “declared aim to design an improved type of fuel,” according to The Associated Press.

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The IAEA said Iran did not indicate its timeline for developing uranium metal, which the country hasn’t done before, senior Western officials told the Journal. 

The agency had visited the Isfahan site where Tehran plans to generate uranium metal on Sunday. Then, Iranian officials told the IAEA on Wednesday that “modification and installation of the relevant equipment for the mentioned R&D activities have been already started,” according to the AP. 

Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said on Twitter that Iran plans to produce uranium metal to create fuel for the civilian research reactor, saying that “natural uranium will be used to produce uranium metal in the first stage.” He said the project will put Iran in line with “progressive nations in production of new fuels,” according to the AP.

Iranian officials said they expect the installation of equipment to create uranium powder to take four to five months before that powder is used to make uranium metal.

The production of uranium metal would violate the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia remain a part of but the U.S. pulled out of in 2018.

As the U.S. instituted sanctions against Iran, the country has moved forward in expanding its nuclear activities, according to reports. 

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The killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last year prompted Iran’s parliament to request the government enrich uranium up to 20 percent purity and develop uranium metal within five months if the U.S. didn’t end sanctions.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the U.K., France and Germany said the activity “has no credible civil justification” and the enrichment “further hollows out the agreement.”

Wednesday's report was issued in the days before President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden offers support to union organizing efforts Senate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits MORE’s inauguration and is likely to complicate his plans with Iran. Biden has previously indicated he would like to rejoin the nuclear deal and recover the diplomatic relationship between the countries. 

After developing uranium metal, Iran would still have several steps to complete before creating a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, which experts told the Journal may still take years.