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IAEA: Iran enriching uranium with new batch of advanced centrifuges

Iran has begun enriching uranium with a fourth cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-2m machines at its underground Natanz plant, a new report by the UN atomic watchdog shows, according to Reuters.

The move is the latest breach by Iran of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The deal only lets Iran enrich with relatively antiquated first-generation IR-1 centrifuges at the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz. Last year, Tehran began adding more advanced centrifuges there able to enrich much faster than the IR-1.

“On 31 March 2021, the Agency verified at FEP that: Iran had begun feeding natural UF6 into a fourth cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its confidential report dated Wednesday and obtained by Reuters on Thursday.

Iran has informed the IAEA that it plans to use six cascades of IR-2m machines at the FEP to refine uranium up to 5% fissile purity. The report said the remaining two cascades were installed but not yet enriching. Installation of a planned second cascade of IR-4 machines had not yet begun, the report said.

“In summary, as of 31 March 2021, the Agency verified that Iran was using 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges installed in 30 cascades, 696 IR-2m centrifuges installed in four cascades and 174 IR-4 centrifuges installed in one cascade to enrich natural UF6 up to 5% U-235 at FEP,” added the report, sent to IAEA member states.

Iran has consistently scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018.

Last month, the IAEA said Iran has started enriching uranium at its underground Natanz plant with a second type of advanced centrifuge, the IR-4.

The IAEA previously reported that Iran had added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20% to its stockpile as of February 16.

Iran also increased its total enriched uranium stockpile to 2,967.8 kilograms (6,542.9 pounds), up from 2,442.9 kilograms (5,385.7 pounds) reported on November 2, the IAEA said.

Iran’s breaches of the deal are part of a campaign seeking to pressure US President Joe Biden to return to the agreement.

Biden has expressed a desire to return to the deal but has stressed that Iran must resume compliance with it before any negotiations on a US return to the agreement.

The US recently accepted Europe’s offer to mediate conversations with Iran regarding the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran, however, rejected the proposal, claiming that the “time was not right” to hold such talks.

Source: Arutz Sheva