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Iran has confirmed it moved a centrifuge facility to its underground Natanz nuclear site, state media reported, days after the UN atomic watchdog said it installed surveillance cameras to monitor the new workshop at the request of Tehran.
The report released Saturday night by the official IRNA news agency comes as diplomatic efforts to restore Iran’s tattered nuclear deal appear to have stalled.
The news agency quoted Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying authorities had moved the operation to a safer location.
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Iran’s Karaj centrifuge facility found itself the target of what Iran described as a sabotage attack in June. Natanz herself has been targeted twice in sabotage attacks amid uncertainty over the nuclear deal, assaults Iran has blamed on Israel.
“Unfortunately, due to a terrorist operation that took place against Karaj, we were forced to intensify security measures under which we moved a significant part of the machinery and transferred the rest to Natanz and Isfahan,” said said Kamalvandi. Isfahan is the location of another Iranian nuclear facility.
On Thursday, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said it had installed cameras and removed seals from machinery at the new Natanz workshop two days earlier. These machines will be used to make centrifuge tubes and rotor bellows, crucial parts for devices that spin at very high speeds to enrich uranium gas.
Talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled. It is feared that Iran would be no closer to being able to build an atomic weapon if it chose to pursue one.
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The nuclear deal collapsed four years ago when former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States and imposed crushing sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, Iran has greatly expanded its nuclear activities
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted on Tuesday that negotiations on the deal are ‘going well’, even after repeated comments from US officials that a deal to restore the deal may not materialize.
The nuclear deal saw Iran stockpile advanced centrifuges under IAEA oversight, while maintaining its enrichment at 3.67% purity and its stockpile at just 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium.
As of February 19, the IAEA said Iran’s stockpile of all enriched uranium was nearly 3,200 kilograms (7,055 pounds). Some have been enriched up to 60% purity – a short technical step from military grade levels of 90%. Meanwhile, Iran blocked the IAEA from accessing footage from its surveillance cameras.
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Kamalvandi reiterated Iran’s position that Tehran will not provide camera data to the UN nuclear agency if a deal is not reached.
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Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. However, US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had an organized military nuclear program until 2003.