Friday, August 12, 2022

UN watchdog says Iran plans to increase uranium enrichment

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) – Iran plans to install two new cascades of advanced centrifuges that will allow Tehran to rapidly enrich more uranium, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday, adding to the country’s nuclear The latest escalation in the impasse on the program.

The decision to add two IR-6 centrifuge cascades to its underground Natanz nuclear facility comes as countries at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna on Wednesday night voted to condemn Iran. The rebuke refers to Iran’s failure to provide “credible information” on man-made nuclear material found at three undeclared sites in the country.

But even before the vote, Iran shut down two tools the IAEA uses to monitor enrichment in Natanz., Iranian officials threatened to take more steps amid a year-long crisis that threatens to escalate into further attacks.

The IAEA said on Thursday that its Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi told members that Iran has informed the agency that it plans to install two new cascades of IR-6 in Natanz. The cascade is a series of centrifuges linked together to spin rapidly to enrich the uranium gas.

An IR-6 centrifuge spins uranium up to 10 times faster than a first-generation centrifuge, which Iran was once limited to under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. According to the IAEA, by February, Iran was already spinning a cascade of IR-6s at its underground facility in Fordo.

In Natanj, located about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the capital Tehran, Iran previously said it planned to install a cascade of IR-6s. The IAEA said Monday it “verified” the ongoing installation of that cascade, while the newly promised two new cascades had yet to begin.

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Iran and world powers agreed to a nuclear deal in 2015, with Tehran substantially limiting its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the agreement, raising tensions in the wider Middle East and triggering a series of attacks and incidents.,

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear deal in Vienna have been stalled since April. Since the collapse of the deal, Iran runs advanced centrifuges and has rapidly growing reserves of enriched uranium.

Nonproliferation experts warn that Iran has enriched enough to 60% purity – a small technological step up from the 90% level of weapons-grade – to create a nuclear weapon should it decide to do so.

Iran insists that its program is for peaceful purposes, although UN experts and Western intelligence agencies say Iran had an organized military nuclear program as far back as 2003.

Analysts say it will still take longer to build a nuclear bomb if it pursues a weapon, though they warn that Tehran’s progress makes the program more dangerous. Israel has threatened in the past that it would conduct a preemptive strike to deter Iran – and is already suspected in a series of recent killings targeting Iranian officials.

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Iran is already capturing footage from IAEA surveillance cameras since February 2021 as a pressure tactic to restore the nuclear deal.

At the IAEA meeting in Vienna, sponsored by Germany, France, Britain and the US, the censure motion was passed with the support of 30 of the 35 governors. Russia and China voted against it, Russian ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov wrote on Twitter. India, Libya and Pakistan did not participate.

After the vote, a joint statement from France, Germany and the UK and US said that the condemnation “sends a clear message to Iran that it must meet its security measures and provide a technically credible explanation on the issues of outstanding security measures”. should do.”

Meanwhile Iran’s foreign ministry criticized the condemnation as “political, incorrect and unstructured action”.

An Iranian official previously warned IAEA officials that Tehran was now considering taking “other measures”.

“We hope they will come to their senses and respond to Iran’s cooperation with cooperation,” said Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi. “It is not acceptable that they show inappropriate behavior while Iran continues to cooperate.”

On Wednesday night, a drone exploded in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil in its Kurdish region, leaving three people with minor injuries and damage to cars and a nearby restaurant, officials said. Although no one immediately claimed the attack, Iran has in the past targeted Erbil amid regional tensions.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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