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Japan expresses concern over Iran’s uranium enrichment

Published: Updated:

Japan’s top government spokesman on Tuesday said the country was deeply concerned about Iran’s latest announcement of a resumption of 20 percent uranium enrichment.

“The government has strong concerns about this move, which is a breach of a nuclear agreement,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

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Iran has resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, the government said on Monday, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.

The enrichment decision, Iran’s latest contravention of the accord, coincides with increasing tensions between Iran and the United States in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Iranian technicians work at a new facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy-water nuclear reactor in Iran. (File photo: AP)
Iranian technicians work at a new facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy-water nuclear reactor in Iran. (File photo: AP)

Tehran started violating the accord in 2019 in a step-by-step response to Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018 and the reimposition of US sanctions lifted under the deal.

The agreement’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing 20 percent enriched uranium has started in Fordow enrichment complex,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told Iranian state media.

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The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity at its Fordow site.

“Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20 percent,” the IAEA said in a statement on a report that was sent to member states.