The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said on Tuesday that Iran had begun producing uranium enriched to up to 60% at its underground Fordo nuclear facility, bringing the country closer to weapons-grade material.
“Iran has begun producing highly enriched uranium – uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 60% – using two consecutive series of IR-6 centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), in addition to this production that has been taking place at Natanz since April 2021. The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.
The statement added that Iran has installed more “cascades of advanced IR-6 centrifuges” and plans to “significantly expand production of low-enriched uranium – uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 5% or up to 20% – at Fordow,” which It is located near the north. – Downtown Qom, through advanced centrifuges.
This comes hours after the official Iranian Press TV announced that Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had begun to increase its enrichment of uranium to a level of purity of 60% in retaliation for the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which called on Iran to cooperate in an investigation into the unexplained effects. of uranium found in undeclared Iranian sites.
Press TV said that Tehran “described this step as a strong message of the recent anti-Iran resolution approved by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
The IAEA statement went on to add: “Director General Grossi said the agency will inform Iran of its intention to increase the frequency and intensity of verification activities at the FFEP plant in accordance with the Safeguards Agreement.”
Grossi also said, “Iran continues to enhance enrichment activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) and is now planning to install a second production building capable of accommodating more than 100 series of centrifuges.”
Iran has consistently denied that it intends to build nuclear weapons.
But this step is likely to shorten the so-called “breakout time” to produce a nuclear weapon.
It’s the latest in a series of steps that far exceed the parameters of the 2015 nuclear deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – which capped Iran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67% in return for sanctions relief. Weapons-grade uranium is considered to have been enriched to more than 90%.
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark deal, then unleashed a wave of crushing sanctions on Iran’s economy. Since then, Tehran has intensified uranium enrichment at a pace not seen since its signing.
US President Joe Biden, an ardent opponent of Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran, began negotiations to revive the deal when he took office. But Biden’s policy has so far failed to revive it, and Iran has steadily raised the stakes in violating its end of the deal.
In the aftermath of the IAEA report, the E3 group – made up of the United Kingdom, France and Germany – issued a statement condemning Iran’s “decision to expand” its nuclear programme.
It said, “By increasing its production capabilities at Fordow and Natanz, beyond JCPOA limits, and by accelerating its production of enriched uranium, Iran has taken other important steps in offloading the JCPOA.”