Nuclear watchdog says Iran enriching uranium up to 60% at underground facility
CNN —Iran has begun producing uranium enriched up to 60% in its underground Fordow nuclear facility, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi said on Tuesday, bringing the country closer to weapons grade material.
“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,” the IAEA said in a statement.
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.
Tehran “described the move as a strong message to the recent anti-Iran resolution passed by the IAEA’s Board of Governors,” Press TV said.
The move however potentially further shortens Iran’s so-called “breakout time” to create a nuclear weapon.
Weapon-grade uranium is considered to have been enriched above 90%.
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.
An ardent opponent of Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran, US President Joe Biden began negotiations to revive the deal when he took office.
But Biden’s policy has so far failed to resurrect it, and Iran has steadily upped the ante in violating its end of the agreement.
Following the IAEA report, the E3 group – comprised of the United Kingdom, France and Germany – issued a statement condemning Iran’s “decision to further expand” its nuclear program.
“By increasing its production capabilities at Fordow and Natanz, well beyond Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) limits, and by accelerating its production of enriched uranium, Iran has taken further significant steps in hollowing out the JCPOA,” it said.