Uranium Enrichment Capacity Approaching Pre-JCPOA Level
EghtesadOnline: Iran's enrichment capacity is set to reach the level before the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior official said, adding that the country's civilian nuclear program is progressing in a satisfactory way.
"[In the past few days], we reached a capacity of 8,600 SWU and with 900 SWU that will be added to the capacity at Fordow, we will reach a total capacity of 9,500 SWU. It means the capacity will almost be restored to the level it was before the signing of the nuclear agreement, which was up to 11,000 SWU," Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted as saying by ISNA on Thursday.
Separative work unit is a unit of measurement of the effort needed to enrich natural uranium so nuclear power plants can use it as fuel.
President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday announced a fourth step in reducing Iran’s adherence to its nuclear deal with world powers, which has been unraveling since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal last year and reimposed sanctions, according to Financial Tribune.
In the latest move taken in response to the US exit and Europe's inaction to save the agreement, Iran began injecting uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges at the Fordow facility—which will considerably increase its enrichment capacity.
The centrifuges had previously spun empty under the terms of the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, when Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
In the previous phases, Tehran exceeded the deal's limits on nuclear enrichment purity and stockpiles of enriched uranium as well as research and development, including on the advancement of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. It has promised more cuts in its commitments unless Europe acts but says its measures are "reversible".
According to Reuters, the International Atomic Energy Agency on Wednesday said its inspectors verified the transfer of a cylinder of UF6 from Iran's enrichment center at Natanz to Fordow, where the cylinder was connected to two centrifuge cascades for passivation, "a preparatory activity conducted prior to enrichment".
Kamalvandi said the enrichment level will reach the level of 4.2% at Fordow on Saturday, adding, "We are in a good place in terms of nuclear technology, and things are progressing well."
The agreement capped the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium at 3.67%.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that Iran's latest step to suspend a provision stipulated in the JCPOA is foreseen in the agreement as a "remedy" to the violations by the US and Europe.
"Abide by your obligations & we'll reverse course," he told the European Union and the European signatories—France, Britain and Germany—in a tweet.
French President Emmanuel Macron called Iran's latest move "grave", saying it explicitly signaled Tehran's intent for the first time to leave the deal.
"I think that for the first time, Iran has decided in an explicit and blunt manner to leave the JCPOA, which marks a profound shift," said Macron, who has been at the forefront of efforts by the European participants to salvage the deal after the United States withdrew, Reuters reported.
Iran has said it does not intend to leave the deal yet and that it has done its best to preserve it.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said events unfolding around the nuclear deal were deeply disturbing.
But he added that Moscow understands why Tehran is cutting back on its commitments and blamed the situation on the US decision to pull out of the pact.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said Iran's decision to take a new step to reduce its nuclear commitments posed a threat to Britain's "national security".
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the move "unacceptable" and urged Iran to return to full compliance with the agreement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang called on all sides to fulfill their commitments, but blamed the US for the existing situation.
"The root cause of sustained tensions around the Iranian nuclear issue lies with the US unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and its maximum pressure campaign against Iran."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's recent "nuclear escalations" raise concerns that should move all countries to increase pressure on Tehran.