Iran resumes uranium enrichment at plant

Iran resumed uranium enrichment at the Fordow nuclear facility early on Thursday to further cut its commitments to the landmark 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
Iran resumes uranium enrichment at plant

A handout picture released by Iran's Atomic Energy Organization on November 6, 2019, shows the interior of the Fordow Uranium Conversion Facility in Qom in the north of the country. 

Iran resumed uranium enrichment at the Fordow nuclear facility early on Thursday to further cut its commitments to the landmark 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced on Thursday that it officially started injecting Uranium Hexafluoride, or UF6, into the centrifuges at the Fordow nuclear plant, which is located in a mountain bunker 160 kilometers south of the capital, Tehran, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the AEOI, said the injection of UF6 is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On Wednesday, Iran transferred 2,000 kilograms of UF6 from the Natanz nuclear facility to Fordow to inject it into 1,044 centrifuges.

Based on the JCPOA clinched in 2015, Iran had been allowed to spin the IR-1 centrifuges at Fordow, the nuclear site near Iran’s central city of Qom, without uranium gas.

Kamalvandi said that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is currently around 500kg and it would increase by some 6kg per day with the resumption of enrichment at Fordow, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Kamalvandi also said the purity of uranium enrichment in Fordow will reach 4.5 percent by tomorrow and the IAEA inspectors will come back to check the process, according to Press TV.

IRNA reported that the country has also put in use new centrifuges and is now developing even more powerful centrifuges, which are key to acquiring purified uranium.

Iran’s move came as the fourth step to scale back its commitments to the nuclear deal after the United States reneged on the treaty in 2018.

Under the landmark deal, Iran agreed to put curbs on its nuclear activities in exchange for the termination of economic and financial sanctions.

In a televised statement on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that the injection of uranium gas was to be monitored by the IAEA.

He also reiterated that Iran’s actions are reversible. When the other parties of the JCPOA fulfill their commitments to safeguard Iran’s interests, Iran will “re-embrace” the deal.

“We know their sensitivity with regard to Fordow. With regard to these centrifuges, we know. But at the same time when they uphold their commitments, we will cut off the gas again ... so it is possible to reverse this step,” Rouhani said.

US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said on Tuesday that Iran has taken “a big step in the wrong direction” and that it has no “credible” reason to expand its uranium enrichment activities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said Iran’s latest deployments of nuclear centrifuges are in line with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as well as the Additional Protocol to IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

“Russia urges Iran to be committed to the JCPOA but it understands the country’s reasons for reducing its commitments,” Lavrov said.

He also criticized the US for exiting the nuclear deal. “Iran gets nothing in exchange for observing the JCPOA,” he said.

The European Union voiced concern on Tuesday after Rouhani’s televised statement.

“We are concerned by President Rouhani’s announcement to further reduce Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.

“The EU remained committed to the nuclear deal but its commitment depends on Iran’s full implementation of the agreement,” Kocijancic added.

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