Iran notifies nuclear watchdog of uranium enrichment plans

Iran notifies nuclear watchdog of uranium enrichment plans
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Iran has notified the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency of plans to produce uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent purity for reactor fuel, the agency said Tuesday, in a move that is likely to inflame the debate over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi informed the Board of Governors of Iran's intentions and called Iran's activity a  “a multi-stage process,” the IAEA said in a statement to The Hill. 

The Biden administration on Tuesday condemned Iran's nuclear activity as provocative, and urged Tehran to reverse course.

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Diplomats from both countries are engaged in indirect discussions in Vienna on a way back to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Obama-era nuclear deal that sought to significantly delay Iran’s pathway to building a nuclear weapon. 

The Biden administration is intent on rejoining the deal, saying it is the only way to impose key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and prevent it from building a weapon, with strict oversight of its nuclear activity, which Tehran maintains is for peaceful purposes. 

The Trump administration in 2018 exited the U.S. from the deal, which was agreed to by Iran, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the European Union. 

Iran maintained compliance with the deal until 2019, when it breached key terms of the agreement in what it says is opposition to the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Iran has enriched uranium beyond the terms of the deal, which can be used to make fuel for a bomb, and has increased the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. 

The Biden administration has committed to lifting sanctions imposed by the Trump administration that it says are “inconsistent” with the JCPOA in exchange for Tehran rolling back its nuclear activity. Iran has called for lifting all sanctions.

The U.S. and Iran have participated in at least six indirect discussions in Vienna over a pathway back to the JCPOA, with a seventh round of talks expected but not yet announced.