The United Nations nuclear watchdog said that Iran has informed the agency it is planning to enrich uranium to up to 20 per cent purity, which would be a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and members of the UN Security Council, including Germany. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in a statement seen by several media outlets, reportedly said that Iran intends to enrich uranium to up to 20 per cent purity at its Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, which again would be a violation of the deal because Tehran is not allowed to use the site as per the agreement.
According to the Associated Press, Iranian state-run news agency IRNA acknowledged the step by Iran after reports emerged saying that the Islamic Republic has sent a letter to the IAEA, informing it will soon start enriching uranium to up to 20% purity.
Iran is violating the deal since 2019 after it started enriching uranium to up to 4.5 per cent purity. The Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA) framework allows Iran to enrich uranium to up to 3.67 per cent purity only. The IAEA in a letter to member states said that Iran has not revealed to the agency exactly when it will start enriching uranium at the Fordow site, a facility that is built deep inside a mountain to avoid airstrikes and other attacks.
The cap on enrichment matters because it will extend the time needed to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran was already enriching uranium to up to 20 percent purity before the signing of the nuclear agreement with the United States and other major powers of the world. As per BBC, Iran's parliament passed a bill last month after the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and mandated the enrichment of uranium to up to 20% purity. It also blocked the inspection of its nuclear sites by IAEA officials.
Iran started violating the JCPOA framework after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Obama-era deal in 2018. The JCPOA required Iran to limit its uranium enrichment purity among other things and, in return, all economic sanctions against Tehran would be lifted. However, after Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, the US reimposed all sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, the US President-elect Jow Biden has pledged to return to the agreement with Iran after taking over the White House on January 20.