The IAEA has issued a new report on Iran’s plan to develop uranium metal, noting that they have successfully progressed through the third phase of a four-step plan to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).
Iran has kept the IAEA informed on their intentions. The US has responded negatively to the reports, objecting to the idea of Iran making fuel for what ironically is an American-made reactor.
In the course of this, Iran took 257 grams of enriched uranium tetrafluoride and converted it to about 200 grams of uranium metal. That metal will in the future be turned into a reactor fuel plate for the TRR.
Enrichment for the TRR is considered controversial because the uranium is enriched to 20%, which is unusual these days. The reactor is from the 1960s, however, and Iran has so far not been able to replace it. The TRR is the source of radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine for all of Iran.
Though the US objected to this process, Iran’s activity is being done entirely under IAEA oversight, and has no weaponization risk. The IAEA has offered multiple reports as the process proceeds, and the US tends to chime in with further objections despite Iran doing exactly what they’d announced in the first place.
Uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons. Iran had signed up to a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys,” under the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015 with world powers. — The Times of Israel
IAEA: Iran producing uranium metal, which can be used in nuclear bomb https://t.co/M1rgXraotG
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) August 16, 2021
The JCPOA nuclear deal is meant to have the P5+1 nations help Iran design a new reactor to replace the TRR.
Before the deal Iran was working on a heavy-water reactor, though the US and other nations sought a redesign. The current status of the JCPOA makes progress uncertain.