Iran ramps up uranium production after IAEA nuclear watchdog censures



Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant is pictured. Tehran reportedly increased production of enriched uranium at two state nuclear facilities in response to a reprimand approved last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency, increasing pressure on Iran to cooperate to an ongoing investigation into its nuclear activities. File photo by Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE

November 22 (UPI) — Iran said on Tuesday it was increasing production of enriched uranium at two state nuclear facilities in response to a reprimand issued last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Tuesday it had increased uranium enrichment at the Fordow nuclear power plant in Qom to 60% purity, while increasing the supply of fuel to centrifuges at its plant. Natanz nuclear facility in Isfahan, the state Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Recent activities in Natanz noted enrichment underway after the plant reached 60% uranium enrichment in April last year, according to the IAEA. Since then, new equipment and infrastructure have led to more efficient uranium production and increased stockpiles.

Tehran’s current enrichment levels fall short of the 90% uranium purity level – the threshold for a nuclear bomb – but the 60% purity levels were exponentially higher than the 3.67% set out in the landmark 2015 deal with world powers, which sought to verify Iran’s atomic capabilities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

But that didn’t happen.

The censor resolutionapproved by the IAEA’s board of governors on Thursday, adds pressure on Tehran to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into its nuclear activities after months of non-compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal in which Tehran pledged to reduce its capacity.

It is the second visit by the nuclear monitoring agency in six months due to Iran’s lack of cooperation with international observers.

The IAEA also sought to resolve a 2018 case in which evidence of robust nuclear activity was found at several sites that should have been restricted or inactive.

That same year, then President donald trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – put in place during the obama administration – and reimposed harsh sanctions on Tehran that are still in place today.

Last week, the United States imposed new sanctions against Iran as the Biden administration seeks to punish the Middle Eastern country for its attempts to evade sanctions and its continued crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Iran said it had taken steps to respond to last Thursday’s resolution by the 35-member IAEA board, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani offered no details while calling the censorship resolution a “political move”.

The United States joined Britain, Germany and France in presenting the resolutions, which were approved by a majority.

Notably, the censor threatened to take the case of Iran’s non-cooperation to the United Nations Security Council.

Tehran immediately disputed the findings, saying it was seeking talks and that the IAEA had issued the resolution based on false information from Israel, its main adversary in the region.

But when the IAEA issued its earlier censure in June, Iran reportedly responded by disabling video cameras that had been installed to monitor activities inside various facilities.

Such disputes between Iran and the international community have dragged on for months, with the latest rift raising the diplomatic stakes even further as IAEA negotiators hoped to meet again with leaders in Tehran before the end of November. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami appeared to shut the door on the talks, saying the meeting was a moot point after last week’s censorship.

Tehran called on the IAEA to close its investigation in exchange for an agreement to restore the terms of the nuclear deal.

In response to Tuesday’s announcement, Britain, France and Germany released A declaration of condemnation against Tehran’s expansion of its nuclear program, accusing the Islamic Republic of “digging deeper into the JCPOA”.

“Iran’s move is a challenge to global non-proliferation systems,” the allied nations said. “This step, which carries significant proliferation risks, has no credible civilian justification.”

Western nations have also chastised Iran for its use of IAEA censorship as a motive, calling it “unacceptable” while reminding Tehran that it is legally bound under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to to fully implement its safeguards agreement.

“We will continue to consult with our international partners on how best to deal with Iran’s continued nuclear escalation,” they said.


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