RFL/RE – Iran has again breached its nuclear deal with major powers by firing up advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges installed underground at its Natanz site, Reuters reports.
The news agency said on November 18 that it had obtained a copy of a new report by the United Nations’ atomic watchdog outlining activities at Natanz, Iran’s main uranium-enrichment site and the one that sources for The New York Times said U.S. President Donald Trump recently asked for options on attacking.
The nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from in 2018, states that Iran can only accumulate enriched uranium with first-generation IR-1 machines and that those are the only centrifuges it can operate at its underground plant at Natanz, apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report last week showed Tehran had installed advanced equipment underground at Natanz, having moved them from an above-ground plant where it was already enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges in breach of the deal.
That report said Iran had not fed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, the feedstock for centrifuges, into that cascade.
“On 14 November 2020, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding UF6 into the recently installed cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz,” Reuters quoted the new IAEA report to member states, dated November 18, as saying.
Iran has breached many restrictions imposed by the 2015 deal on its atomic activities, including on the purity to which it enriches uranium and its stock of enriched uranium, citing the U.S. withdrawal as the reason even though other signatories to the agreement — Russia, France, Great Britain, China, and the European Union — insist the agreement is still valid and have urged Tehran to adhere to it.
Last week’s IAEA report said Iran had also begun installing a cascade of IR-4 centrifuges at the underground plant but not a planned third cascade of IR-6 machines. It is also operating 5,060 IR-1 machines at the underground plant.