Iran reportedly has embarked on efforts toward possibly producing nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations atomic agency.
A confidential report Wednesday by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had started work on an assembly line to manufacture a key material used at the core of nuclear warheads, per The Wall Street Journal.
The news came a week before President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in, replacing President Donald Trump.
Tension between the U.S. and Iran has increased since 2018, when Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal. The U.S. restored harsh sanctions to pressure Iran into negotiating stricter curbs on its nuclear program and ballistic missile development.
In a report for member states viewed by the Journal, the IAEA said Iran had told the watchdog it started manufacturing equipment it will use to produce uranium metal at a site in Isfahan.
The core of a nuclear weapon could be constructed by using uranium metal.
Senior Western officials said so far, Iran hadn’t made uranium metal. No timeline in which to do so was provided to the IAEA.
The U.N. report means Iran has moved closer to crossing the line between nuclear operations with a potential civilian use and nuclear-weapons work, which Tehran has denied doing.
Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said Wednesday on Twitter that Iran would produce uranium metal for the development of a new fuel for the Tehran civilian research reactor.
According to Iran, four to five months will be needed to install the equipment to produce a uranium powder from which uranium metal is made.