(Reuters) – Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium up to 60%, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) said on Saturday, far more than is required for most civilian uses but short of the 90% needed to make nuclear bomb fuel.
“The organisation has the possibility to produce 5%, 20% and 60%, and has this capacity,” AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said during a news conference at the underground Fordow nuclear plant, the official IRIB news agency reported.
“At the moment, the need is for 5%,” he added.
Iran’s highest political authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last month that the Islamic Republic had never pursued the building or use of nuclear weapons, which its religion forbids.
Iran said on Thursday it had resumed uranium enrichment at Fordow, stepping further away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the United States pulled out of it. [nL8N27L7NE]
The pact bans production of nuclear material at Fordow, a highly sensitive site that Iran hid from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors until its exposure in 2009.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit Fordow on Sunday, Kamalvandi said.
Since May, Iran has begun to exceed limits on its nuclear capacity set by the pact in retaliation for U.S. pressure on Tehran to negotiate restrictions on its ballistic missile programme and support for proxy forces around the Middle East.
Iran says its measures are reversible if European signatories to the accord manage to restore its access to foreign trade promised under the nuclear deal but blocked by the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Editing by Helen Popper)