Iran Testing New Advanced Centrifuge 04/10 12:34
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran said Saturday it has begun mechanical tests on its
newest advanced nuclear centrifuge, even as the five world powers that remain
in a foundering 2015 nuclear deal with Iran attempt to bring the U.S. back into
Iran's IR-9 centrifuge, when operational, would have the ability to separate
uranium isotopes more quickly than the current centrifuges being used, thereby
enriching uranium at a faster pace. The announcement carried on state TV came
on Iran's 15th annual "Nuclear Day."
The IR-9's output is 50 times quicker than the first Iranian centrifuge, the
IR-1. The country also announced it had launched a chain of 164 IR-6
centrifuges on Saturday, and is also developing IR-8 centrifuges.
Since January, Iran has begun enriching uranium at up to 20% purity, a
technical step away from weapons-grade levels, though Iran's leadership insists
the country has no desire to develop a nuclear weapon.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear accord
in 2018, accusing Iran of failing to live up to the agreement, opting for what
he called a maximum-pressure campaign of stepped-up U.S. sanctions and other
Iran responded by intensifying its enrichment of uranium and building
centrifuges in plain violation of the accord, while insisting that its nuclear
development is for civilian not military purposes.
Israel maintains Iran still maintains the ambition of developing nuclear
weapons, pointing to Tehran's ballistic missile program and research into other
technologies. Tehran denies it is pursuing nuclear weapons, and says its
nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran also announced that it has finished repairs on an advanced centrifuge
assembly plant that was destroyed by a mysterious explosion in July, state-run
IRNA news agency reported.
Iran has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including the
explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility as well as another one in November
that killed top scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. He had founded the Islamic
Republic's military nuclear program two decades ago.
Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached 55 kilograms (121
pounds), moving its nuclear program closer to weapons-grade enrichment levels.
The amount of the material was 17 kilograms in January.
Iran has installed 1,000 IR2 centrifuge machines and one cascade of 164 IR4
machines. Both are in operation and have more speed than the IR1 machines.
Since late February, Iran has ceased abiding by a confidential agreement
with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog reached as part of the landmark 2015 nuclear
deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency has additional protocols with
several countries it monitors.
Under the protocol with Iran, the IAEA "collects and analyzes hundreds of
thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,"
the agency said in 2017. The agency also said then that it had placed "2,000
tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment."
However, Iran's parliament passed a bill in December requiring the
government to limit its cooperation with the IAEA and push its nuclear program
beyond the limits of the 2015 nuclear deal. After the bill became law, Iran
then began enriching uranium up to 20% purity and spinning advanced centrifuges
-- both barred by the deal.
Iran argues that the U.S.'s departure from the nuclear deal was the first
violation of the deal by either county and therefore the U.S. must make the
first move and remove sanctions before Iran returns to compliance.
President Joe Biden came into office saying that getting back into the
accord and getting Iran's nuclear program back under international restrictions
was a priority. But Iran and the United States have disagreed over Iran's
demands that sanctions be lifted first. That deadlock has threatened to become
an early foreign policy setback for the new U.S. president.
Talks in Vienna aimed at bringing the U.S. back into the deal with Iran
broke Friday without any immediate signs of progress on issues dividing
Washington and Tehran.
However, delegates spoke of a constructive atmosphere and resolved to
continue the discussions.