Iran said on Friday that it has begun enriching some uranium at 60 percent, a step the Islamic Republic took in response to an apparent Israeli attack on its Natanz nuclear facility.
“Sixty-percent enrichment is currently underway at the Shahid Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility” at Natanz, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
The move is the latest step Iran has taken to increase the activity of its civilian nuclear program that was caused by a covert Israeli attack. Iran’s parliament passed a bill that required 20 percent enrichment after the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in November 2020.
While the increased enrichment is a response to the attack, it also has a civilian purpose. Earlier this week, Salehi explained that uranium enriched at 60 percent could be used to produce radiopharmaceuticals.
The move comes as the US and Iran have been engaged in indirect talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. An EU official said on Friday that the negotiating teams for the US and Iran will now return home to have internal discussions on the way forward, and talks are expected to eventually reconvene in Vienna.
The US has denounced Iran’s decision to increase uranium enrichment as “provocative” but has not condemned the dangerous Israeli attack on a nuclear facility that caused Tehran to take the step.
While the US condemns the increased enrichment, it has the power to reverse it by lifting Trump-era sanctions, which would bring Iran back into the limits set by the JCPOA. But Biden administration officials have indicated they are not willing to do so. Last week, a US official said, “If Iran sticks to the position that every sanction that has been imposed since 2017 has to be lifted or there will be no deal, then we are heading towards an impasse.”