Iran Says Fordow Nuclear Plant Now Enriching Uranium To 60 Percent
By RFE/RL's Radio Farda November 22, 2022
Iran has announced it is now enriching uranium at a 60 percent purity level at its Fordow underground nuclear facility after the United Nations nuclear watchdog condemned Tehran's failure to cooperate over visits by the agency.
The official state-run news agency IRNA reported on November 22 that the Fordow site, which is buried in the side of a mountain, was producing uranium with an enrichment level of 60 percent -- one technical step away from weapons-grade levels -- "for the first time."
Iran already produces uranium at 60 percent at two other plants.
IRNA did not say how much of the 60 percent-enriched uranium had been produced at Fordow.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Iran has also begun to replace first-generation centrifuges (IR-1) with advanced IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow, which would allow it to escalate its enrichment activities further.
The IAEA later confirmed Iran's claim that it has started enriching uranium up to 60 percent at its Fordow plant. This is in addition to production that has taken place at Natanz, another uranium enrichment plant in Iran, since April 2021, the IAEA said. Iran continues to advance its enrichment activities there "and now plans to install a second production building," the IAEA said.
White House national-security spokesman John Kirby told a briefing on November 22 that the administration of President Joe Biden was "going to make sure we have all options available."
"We certainly have not changed our view that we will not allow Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability," he said.
Britain, France, and Germany also condemned Iran's nuclear advances.
"Iran's step is a challenge to the global nonproliferation system," the three nations said in a joint statement. "This step, which carries significant proliferation-related risks, has no credible civilian justification."
The statement added that the three countries "will continue to consult, alongside international partners, on how best to address Iran's continued nuclear escalation."
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting last week in Vienna criticized Iran for failing to allow inspections of nuclear sites, while the UN agency's chief, Rafael Grossi, recently said he was "seriously concerned" over uncertainty surrounding Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran claims is purely for civilian purposes.
Exacerbating tensions, the IAEA has been waiting for an explanation from Tehran about the origin of undeclared uranium particles that were detected at three locations. The issue has been a key sticking point in wider talks between Iran and global powers seeking to revive a 2015 deal that curbs Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from Western sanctions.
The United States unilaterally pulled out of the accord in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered Iran's economy and its currency. After Washington withdrew, Iran began to breach some of the pact's nuclear limits, saying they could no longer be enforced.
The deal capped enrichment at 3.67 percent.
With reporting by Reuters
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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