By Francois Murphy
VIENNA, July 8 (Reuters) – Iran has enriched uranium beyond a 3.67% purity limit set by its deal with major powers, the U.N. nuclear watchdog policing the deal said on Monday, confirming a move previously announced by Tehran.
“(International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General Yukiya Amano has informed the IAEA Board of Governors that Agency inspectors on 8 July verified that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67% U-235,” an IAEA spokesman said, referring to the fissile uranium-235 isotope.
An IAEA report to member states obtained by Reuters said the agency had verified the enrichment level using online enrichment monitors, and samples had also been taken on Monday for analysis. It did not say exactly what purity level Iran was enriching at, only that it was above the 3.67% limit.
The report added that Iran had informed the agency on Monday that “based on the operator’s assessment” the enrichment level was about 4.5%. A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said earlier on Monday that the level had passed 4.5%, according to the student news agency ISNA.
While that is clearly over the line set by the deal – which as a whole was aimed at increasing the time Iran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to a year from 2-3 months – it is still well below the 20% level Iran reached before the deal.
Updated design information provided by Iran on Sunday also indicated the enrichment level was “up to 5% U-235” at its Natanz enrichment site, the report said.
(Editing by William Maclean)