European powers have warned Iran against starting work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, saying it contravened the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We strongly encourage Iran to end this activity, and return to full compliance with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without delay, if it is serious about preserving this agreement,” France, Britain, and Germany said in a joint statement issued on January 16.
The statement added that Iran has “no credible civilian use” for uranium metal.
“The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications,” the statement said, while noting that under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran committed not to engage in the production of uranium metal or conducting research and development on uranium metallurgy for 15 years.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said on January 14 that Iran has informed it the country has begun installing equipment for the production of uranium metal, in another breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran maintains its plans to conduct research and development on uranium metal production are part of its “declared aim to design an improved type of fuel,” the IAEA said.
Tehran has in past months reduced its commitment under the nuclear accord after a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the deal in 2018 and reimpose crippling sanctions.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have heightened since then.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was signed, has said the U.S. will rejoin the accord if Tehran returns to strict compliance.
Britain, France, and Germany warned earlier this month that Iran “risks compromising” chances of diplomacy with Washington after Tehran announced that it was starting to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
Tehran has always denied pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program was strictly for civilian purposes.