Iran's uranium stockpile 10 times higher than nuclear deal allows​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​, says IAEA

UN atomic watchdog says Iran continues to increase stores of uranium after being allowed at last to inspect a suspected nuclear site

This photo released on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. Iran announced on Monday that had started gas injection into a 30-machine cascade of advanced IR-6 centrifuges in Natanz complex. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Iran's uranium stockpile is 10 times higher than the limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said.

The UN's atomic watchdog said Iran continued to increase its stores of uranium in breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to a confidential report seen by Reuters and Associated Press.

As of August 25, Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, up from 1,571.6kg last reported on May 20, the report said.

Under the nuclear deal Iran signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, it can only keep a stockpile of 202.8kg of enriched uranium.

Iran is also continuing to use more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium than is permitted under the deal, the nuclear watchdog said.

The IAEA said Iran had been enriching uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 per cent, higher than the 3.67 per cent allowed under the deal. It said Iran’s stockpile of heavy water – which helps cool nuclear reactors – had decreased, however, and was now back within the JCPOA limits.

The 2015 deal promised Tehran economic incentives in return for curbs on its nuclear programme. But in 2018, US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal and renewed sanctions on Iran.

The latter has since slowly violated the restrictions to try to pressure the remaining nations to increase the incentives to offset new US sanctions that are crippling its economy.

According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need roughly 1,050kg of low-enriched uranium – under 5 per cent purity – in gas form and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90 per cent purity, to make a nuclear weapon.

Before he nuclear deal, Iran enriched its uranium up to 20 per cent purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90 per cent. In 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000kg with higher enrichment, but this was reduced following the nuclear agreement.

In a separate report issued on Friday, the IAEA said that inspectors had already visited one of the two suspected nuclear sites to which it has been requesting access, and would visit the other this month.

"Iran provided agency inspectors access to the location to take environmental samples," the watchdog said.

"The samples will be analysed by laboratories that are part of the agency's network."

One diplomatic source told AFP the results of the analysis could take up to three months.

The IAEA had been at a months-long impasse with Tehran over access to the two sites which Iran had argued inspectors had no right to visit because they dated to before the deal.

Iran agreed to provide access after IAEA director Rafael Grossi visited Tehran in late August for meetings with top officials.

The IAEA also gave an update on another location in Tehran which had not been declared to the agency and where it found uranium particles last year.

The agency said it had analysed samples from the site, the results of which were "not inconsistent" with information provided by Iran about the possible origin of the particles.

"However, the agency has recently informed Iran that there are a number of other findings for which further clarifications and information need to be provided," the report said.