November 29, 2022

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Iran a step away from weapons-grade uranium, nuclear watchdog says

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that Iran is enriching uranium to 60 per cent purity at its Fordow plant as a part of an expansion plan of its enrichment capacity in defiance of objections raised by Western countries.

In a statement on Tuesday, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said: “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.”

Weapons-grade uranium is 90% enriched or more, according to a report in the BBC.

Under its 2015 nuclear deal with China, France, Germany, Russia, the US and the UK, Tehran was allowed to enrich uranium up to 3.67% purity.

Mr Grossi added in his statement 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, reported CNN.

Tehran’s move appears to be in retaliation to a resolution passed by the UN’s nuclear watchdog last week in which the 35-nation board of governors ordered Iran to cooperate with the ongoing years-long probe into the origin of uranium particles found at three undeclared sites in the country.

According to the 2015 nuclear pact signed between Iran and the six countries, Tehran was permitted to use only first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.

After the deal fell through in 2018 with then-US president Donald Trump withdrawing from it, Tehran has installed more efficient advanced centrifuges, such as the IR-2m, IR-4 and IR-6.

It has also resumed enrichment at Fordow, which was barred under the deal.

In the long run, the IAEA said, Iran plans an expansion of its underground, commercial-scale Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz.

“Iran continues to advance its enrichment activities at the Fuel Enrichment Plant in Natanz and now plans to install a second production building, capable of housing over 100 centrifuge cascades,” the statement added.

The IAEA statement came hours after Iran’s state media Press TV reported that Tehran had informed the UN’s nuclear watchdog that it would boost its uranium enrichment to the 60& enrichment level.

Press TV described it as Tehran “a strong message to the recent anti-Iran resolution passed by the IAEA’s Board of Governors.”

(Additional reporting by agencies)

Original News : https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-iaea-uranium-enrichment-b2231096.html

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