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Iran Increases Nuclear Tension

20% uranium enrichment will be the high point since the 2015 deal took effect
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2021 5:15 PM CST

(Newser) – In the biggest violation yet of an international nuclear agreement, Iran is going ahead with enriching its uranium to 20% purity. A nuclear bomb requires 90% purity, but the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 had limited enrichment levels to less than 4%, the BBC reports. Iran has violated provisions of the deal since President Trump restored sanctions and pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018, such as increasing enrichment of uranium to 4.5%. But 20% enrichment would be the high point since the deal took effect, per NPR. Iran signaled that it would take this step last month. The International Atomic Energy Agency said the enrichment will take place at Iran's Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, which is built under a mountain near the city of Qom.

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The agency said its inspectors "have regular access to Fordow," but Iran has said it will prevent inspections if oil and banking sanctions aren't lifted by February. The UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China want the nuclear deal fully restored. President-elect Joe Biden has said he'd favor that if Iran is in "strict compliance" with the agreement. And Iranian Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that if Biden "returns to the situation as it was in 2017, then so will we." But the agency's director general said last month that that might not be possible. "I cannot imagine that they are going simply to say, 'We are back to square one' because square one is no longer there," Rafael Mariano Grossi said. (Read more Iranian nuclear program stories.)

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