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Iran produces uranium metal enriched up to 20%, increases production rate for 60% enriched uranium

On 16 August, Reuters, based on its access to unreleased reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported that Iran had produced 200 grams of uranium metal enriched up to 20% using 257 grams of UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride).

While the US Department of State spokesperson, Ned Price, raised concerns regarding Tehran's activities, Iran has maintained that it intends to build fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) using this process. The multiple steps involved in the process of producing fuel plates are – conversion of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4); UF4 to uranium metal; and uranium metal to uranium silicide (U3Si2). Uranium metal is an intermediate product in the process of producing reactor fuel plates and a small amount of uranium metal enriched up to 20% does not present any immediate nuclear weaponisation risks. However, the expertise and knowledge gained by Iran through the production of uranium metal is of significant concern.

In addition to this, according to a Reuters report on 17 August, Iran added 153 IR-4 centrifuges to the production process of 60% enriched uranium which, as of June 2021, had a dedicated cascade of 164 IR-6 centrifuges fed with 5% enriched uranium at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) in Natanz. As per the IAEA quarterly report in May 2021, the depleted uranium or the ‘tails' produced from the enrichment process involving 60% enriched uranium were in turn being fed to a cascade of 130 IR-4 centrifuges to produce uranium enriched up to 20%.

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