© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seen at IAEA headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021. REUTERS / Lisi Niesner
By François Murphy and Parisa Hafezi
VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has started producing enriched uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, the UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday, further eroding the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 during talks with the West to save it.
The announcement appeared to undermine indirect talks between Iran and the United States on the two’s full reinstatement in the battered deal that resumed this week after a five-month hiatus caused by the election of radical President Ebrahim Raisi .
Western negotiators fear Iran will create facts on the ground to gain influence in the talks.
On the third day of this round of talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20% purity with a cascade, or a group of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow. These machines are much more efficient than the first generation IR-1.
Highlighting how the deal is eroded, this pact does not allow Iran to enrich uranium at Fordow at all. Until now, Iran has produced enriched uranium there with IR-1 machines and has enriched itself with some IR-6 without keeping the product.
It has 94 IR-6 machines installed in a cascade in Fordow that is not yet functioning, the IAEA said in a statement.
A more comprehensive IAEA report circulated to member states and viewed by Reuters said that following Iran’s decision, the nuclear watchdog plans to step up inspections at the enrichment plant in Fordow Fuel (FFEP) that houses the centrifuges, but the details have yet to be ironed out.
Iran has downplayed the report as routine despite the fact that the IAEA, which does not explicitly give a reason for such reports, generally only publishes them for important developments such as further violations of the nuclear restrictions of the OK.
“The recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear activities is a regular update consistent with regular verification in Iran,” Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Vienna said on Twitter (NYSE :).
However, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi has made it clear that he views this development with concern.
“This redoubles the alert. It is not trivial. Iran can do it, but if you have such ambition, you have to accept inspections. It is necessary ”, declared Grossi to the French channel France 24.
Iran and the big powers are trying to revive the 2015 deal under which Tehran curtailed its nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions from the US, EU and UN.
Then-US President Donald Trump scrapped the deal in 2018 and reimposed tough US sanctions, angering Iran and dismaying other parties: Britain, China, France , Germany and Russia.
This week’s indirect talks between Tehran and Washington – with others shuttling between them because Iran refuses to meet with US officials – made no visible progress.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday accused Israel of “proposing lies to poison” the talks.
While it was not clear what the spokesperson was referring to, a Tel Aviv-based reporter for US news agency Axios reported on Monday that Israel had shared intelligence with Washington and its European allies suggesting that Iran was taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity. , the level required for a nuclear weapon.
Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.