Iran planning escalation of enrichment at Fordow plant, IAEA report says

Iran is further stepping up its uranium enrichment as it prepares to use advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its Fordow underground site that can more easily switch between enrichment levels, a United Nations nuclear watchdog report has shown. by Reuters on Monday.

The move is the latest of several steps Iran had long threatened to take, but delayed implementation until 30 of the 35 countries on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors backed. a resolution this month criticizing him for failing to explain traces of uranium found at undeclared sites. sites.

While indirect US-Iranian talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have long stalled, any further escalation in Tehran’s standoff with the West risks killing hopes of curbing the republic’s nuclear advances. Islam and to lift American sanctions against it.

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IAEA inspectors verified on Saturday that Iran is ready to introduce uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, material centrifuges enrich, in the second of two cascades, or clusters, of installed IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow, a site carved into the mountain, the secret According to the IAEA’s report to member states.

Iran informed the IAEA on Monday that cascade passivation, a process that precedes enrichment and also involves introducing UF6 into machinery, began on Sunday.

Importantly, the 166-machine cascade is the only one to have so-called “modified sub-headers”, which make it easier to switch enrichment to other levels of purity. Western diplomats have long pointed to this equipment as a cause for concern because it could allow Iran to get rich quickly at higher levels.

Awaiting clarification

Iran also did not clearly tell the agency to what purity the cascade will enrich after passivation. Iran had previously informed the IAEA that the two IR-6 cascades could be used to enrich to 5% or 20% purity.

“The Agency has not yet received any clarification from Iran as to the mode of production it intends to implement for the above-mentioned cascade, after completion of the passivation,” the report said, that the IAEA has confirmed.

On another site, Iran is already enriching itself by up to 60%, nearly around 90% military grade and well above the 3.67% cap set by the 2015 deal. Iran breached many of the agreement’s limits in response to the US withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.

In response to the Board of Governors’ resolution, Iran ordered the removal of IAEA cameras installed under the 2015 deal and continued installing IR-6 centrifuges at an underground factory in Natanz. where the deal allows him to enrich but only with much less efficient IR-1 machines.

The 2015 agreement does not allow uranium enrichment at Fordow.

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