In line with decreasing its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% at the Fordow plant.
It was last week that a resolution by the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors was issued against Iran’s nuclear program, ordering Tehran to cooperate with the agency.
In reaction, and since Iran has always denied any wrongdoing regarding its nuclear program, the IAEA issued a statement this Tuesday and announced that the Islamic Republic has begun raising its limits in uranium enrichment at the underground Fordow nuclear facility by 60%.
“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today said Iran had started producing high enriched uranium – UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) enriched up to 60% – using the existing two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges in the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, in addition to such production that has taken place at Natanz since April 2021,” the agency said in a statement.
This level of enrichment, as the head of the IAEA believes, will bring Iran closer to weapons grade material.
The statement added that Iran has installed more “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 near the north-central city of Qom, through those advanced centrifuges.
Hours after the IAEA’s statement, Iranian state media Press TV confirmed the news and reported that Iran had informed the IAEA it had started boosting its enrichment of uranium to the purity level of 60%, and that it was indeed a retaliatory move in response to the IAEA’S resolution.
According to the report, Iranian officials described the enrichment as “a strong message to the recent anti-Iran resolution passed by the IAEA’s Board of Governors.”
No evidence of building nuclear bomb
Under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the stepping stone for nuclear non-proliferation among states, Iran does have an inalienable right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.
However, US and a number of European countries believe and fear that Iran could go for enriching uranium up to 90% to build nuclear weapons, a story that Tehran categorically denies. This is while the IAEA has never found any strong evidence to prove the claim.
The IAEA resolution is the second this year targeting Iran over the investigation, which has become an obstacle to talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal because Iran has demanded that the probe be ended.
Iran on Monday dismissed the resolution as “politically motivated”. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani described the resolution approved as an “anti-Iranian” and “politically motivated.”
The spokesman said during the weekly press conference that Iran expects the IAEA to avoid “political actions” and allow Iran’s cooperation with the international nuclear watchdog to continue so that both sides can achieve “good results.”
He also added Iran’s nuclear activities “has been under the agency’s supervision, and the IAEA has carried out the most inspections on Iran’s nuclear activities.”
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark deal and then unleashed a wave of crushing sanctions on Iran’s economy. Tehran has since ramped up uranium enrichment at a pace not seen since its signing.
Iran is already enriching uranium to up to 60% purity in Natanz and now in Fordow. This number is well below the roughly 90% needed for weapons grade material but above the 20% it produced before a 2015 agreement with western powers in which Iran agreed to limit its enrichment to 3.67% but only in exchange of relieving sanctions.