Iran has begun producing uranium enriched as much as 60% in its underground Fordow nuclear facility, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi mentioned on Tuesday, bringing the nation nearer to weapons grade materials.
“Iran had started producing high enriched uranium – UF6 enriched up to 60% – using the existing two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges in the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), in addition to such production that has taken place at Natanz since April 2021,” the IAEA mentioned in an announcement.
The assertion added that Iran has put in extra “cascades of advanced IR-6 centrifuges” and plans a “significant expansion of low enriched uranium production – UF6 enriched up to 5% or up to 20% – at Fordow,” which is close to the north-central metropolis of Qom, via these superior centrifuges.
This comes hours after Iranian state media Press TV reported that Iran had knowledgeable the IAEA it had began boosting its enrichment of uranium to the purity degree of 60% in retaliation to the IAEA’S board of governors calling on Iran to cooperate with an investigation into unexplained traces of uranium discovered at undisclosed Iranian websites.
Tehran “described the move as a strong message to the recent anti-Iran resolution passed by the IAEA’s Board of Governors,” Press TV mentioned.
The IAEA assertion went on so as to add: “Director General Grossi said the Agency will inform Iran of its intention to increase the frequency and intensity of its verification activities at FFEP in accordance with the Safeguards Agreement.”
Grossi additionally mentioned “Iran continues to advance its enrichment activities at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz and now plans to install a second production building, capable of housing over 100 centrifuge cascades.”
Iran has frequently denied it intends to assemble nuclear weapons.
The transfer nonetheless doubtlessly additional shortens Iran’s so-called “breakout time” to create a nuclear weapon.
It is the most recent in a collection of steps going far past the parameters of the 2015 nuclear deal – recognized formally because the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – which capped Iranian uranium enrichment at 3.67% in trade for sanctions aid. Weapon-grade uranium is taken into account to have been enriched above 90%.
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark deal after which unleashed a wave of crushing sanctions on Iran’s financial system. Tehran has since ramped up uranium enrichment at a tempo not seen since its signing.
An ardent opponent of Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure campaign” in opposition to Iran, US President Joe Biden started negotiations to revive the deal when he took workplace. But Biden’s coverage has up to now did not resurrect it, and Iran has steadily upped the ante in violating its finish of the settlement.
Following the IAEA report, the E3 group – comprised of the United Kingdom, France and Germany – issued an announcement condemning Iran’s “decision to further expand” its nuclear program.
“By increasing its production capabilities at Fordow and Natanz, well beyond Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) limits, and by accelerating its production of enriched uranium, Iran has taken further significant steps in hollowing out the JCPOA,” it mentioned.