Iran’s Enrichment to High Levels at Natanz Plant Is Expanding, IAEA Says

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Iran's Natanz atomic  installation  successful  a outer  photograph  connected  April 7, 2021. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

Iran's Natanz atomic installation successful a outer photograph connected April 7, 2021. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

VIENNA—Iran is expanding its enrichment of uranium beyond the highly enriched threshold of 20 percent purity astatine a Natanz works wherever it is already enriching to 60 percent, but the caller enactment does not impact keeping the product, the U.N atomic watchdog said connected Monday.

The determination is apt to assistance Iran refine its cognition of the enrichment process—something Western powers mostly condemn due to the fact that it is irreversible—but since this clip the merchandise is not being collected it volition not instantly accelerate Iran’s accumulation of uranium enriched to adjacent to weapons-grade.

It has, however, prompted the International Atomic Energy Agency to “increase the frequence and strength of its safeguards activities” astatine the above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) astatine Natanz, the IAEA said successful a study seen by Reuters. As of astir 90 percent uranium is considered weapons-grade.

The IAEA said successful a connection outlining the study that Iran informed it past week of changes to the setup of centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, astatine the plant—Iran would provender uranium enriched to up to 20 percent into constricted numbers of other centrifuges without collecting the product.

“On 25 October 2021, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding (uranium hexafluoride gas) enriched up to 20 percent U-235 into a azygous IR-6 centrifuge successful R&D enactment 2 astatine PFEP and that the resulting merchandise and tails streams were being re-combined,” the IAEA study said, meaning that aft separating the enriched merchandise it was mixed with the centrifuge’s discarded and not kept.

Iran had said it planned to besides provender uranium enriched to up to 20 percent into different azygous centrifuges oregon small- to medium-sized cascades, oregon clusters, of machines connected the aforesaid line, but those were not being fed astatine the time, the IAEA said.

Iran has yet to denote a day to resume discussions successful Vienna astir reviving the 2015 atomic pact nether which it curbed its atomic programme successful instrumentality for alleviation from U.S., EU and U.N. economical sanctions.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the pact successful 2018 and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions. About a twelvemonth later, Iran started violating immoderate of the deal’s limits connected uranium enrichment.

By Francois Murphy