Iran Announces New Violations of Nuclear Deal
Iran said on Monday it had launched a new batch of advanced centrifuges to accelerate uranium enrichment, further reducing compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States.
Iran has gradually shed commitments made under the deal with world powers since being hit with renewed US sanctions that have crippled its oil exports. Germany said on Monday Iran’s announced roll-out of modernized centrifuges jeopardizes the accord and called on Tehran to return to it.
Under the 2015 deal, Tehran is only allowed to enrich uranium with just over 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, widely seen as antiquated and breakdown-prone. The new IR-6 machines can refine uranium 10 times faster, said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
“Today, we are witnessing the launch of the cascade (operating set) of 30 IR-6 centrifuges,” Salehi told state television. “Iran now is operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges. It shows our capacity and determination.
“Our scientists are working on a prototype called the IR-9 that works 50 times faster than the IR-1s.”
The nuclear deal, under which international sanctions against Iran were lifted, was tailored to extend the time Iran would need to accumulate enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb - sometimes referred to as the “breakout time” - to about a year from 2-3 months.
Tehran denies ever having aimed to develop a nuclear bomb, saying enrichment is only to generate energy for civilian uses.
The UN. nuclear watchdog said in September that Iran had informed the agency about making modifications to accommodate cascades - or interconnected clusters - of 164 of the IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuge. Cascades of the same size and type were scrapped under the nuclear agreement.
Iran “has no credible reason” to expand its enrichment program, a senior US administration official said on Monday in a call with reporters. “And what they’ve announced is a big step in the wrong direction.”
Iran’s announcement came on the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran at the start of its revolution. A brief thaw in decades of antagonism between Tehran and Washington brought about by the 2015 deal ended last year when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord, under which Iran had agreed to rein in its disputed enrichment program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Trump said the accord was flawed in Iran’s favor and wants it renegotiated. Washington has since renewed and intensified its sanctions, slashing Iran’s economically vital crude oil sales by more than 80%.
The Trump administration on Monday slapped fresh sanctions on nine people with ties to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including his chief of staff, one of his sons and the head of Iran’s judiciary. The US Treasury Department said those targeted help Khamenei “implement his destabilizing policies”.
Responding to Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran has bypassed the restrictions of the deal step-by-step - including by breaching both its cap on stockpiled enriched uranium and on the level of enrichment.