Iran boosts uranium enrichment in response to IAEA resolution

Tehran continues to signal defiance after a second censure resolution in six months.

Flag of Iran
Iran has faced repeated censure at the IAEA, but says this is part of a campaign against it [File: Michael Gruber/AP Photo]

Tehran, Iran – Iran has increased its enrichment of uranium and use of advanced centrifuges at two nuclear sites in response to a censure resolution passed against it at the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

State media confirmed on Tuesday that Iran has boosted its uranium enrichment at the Fordow nuclear plant to 60 percent in reaction to the resolution passed by the IAEA’s board of governors on Thursday.

Iran has also been feeding gas to centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant in Isfahan, which is part of the enrichment process, the reports said.

Iran had initially ramped up its uranium enrichment to 60 percent at Natanz in April 2021 after an attack on the facility that it blamed on Israel.

It has since deployed more advanced machines there, which allow for quicker enrichment and easier switching between enrichment levels.

Enrichment was also already taking place at Fordow, but at lower levels.

The current enrichment level is still below the 90-plus  percent purity required for a nuclear bomb, which Iran has pledged never to seek.

But it far exceeds the 3.67 percent level agreed as part of the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that introduced caps on nuclear activity in exchange for the lifting of multilateral sanctions.

The United States unilaterally abandoned the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018, imposing harsh sanctions that have only escalated since.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, announced on Monday that Tehran has taken measures in response to the IAEA resolution, but did not divulge details.

He also condemned the censure as a “political move” that he claimed had no technical basis.

The resolution was the second passed in six months criticising Iran for insufficient cooperation with the nuclear watchdog regarding the case of man-made nuclear particles found in 2018 at several nuclear sites, and for restricting IAEA monitoring capabilities.

Both resolutions were introduced by the US and the E3 – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – and were approved by a majority of the 35-member board.

However, the latest censure used more serious language, in that it threatened to take the case to the United Nations Security Council if Tehran does not begin to cooperate.

Iran, which maintains it has sufficiently responded to the agency and says the probe is based on false information provided by its arch foe Israel, responded to the previous resolution in June by removing what remained of the IAEA’s cameras that were installed as part of the JCPOA.

It remains unclear whether an IAEA delegation that was initially slated to visit Tehran for more talks later this month will be granted entry after Iran’s nuclear chief, Mohammad Eslami, signalled last week that the trip may be pointless following the resolution.

Tehran has demanded that the IAEA probe be shut down before an agreement can be reached on restoring the nuclear deal.

The JCPOA talks, however, have been in limbo for months due to disagreements, and the US has said the talks are not a top priority as protests that erupted across Iran in September persist.

Source: Al Jazeera