Iran again breaching nuclear deal

IAEA says Iran using advanced models of centrifuges to enrich uranium in violation of deal with world powers.

Elad Benari ,

IAEA headquarters
IAEA headquarters

Iran has started using advanced models of centrifuges to enrich uranium, the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report on Thursday.

Advanced centrifuges at Iran's Natanz facility "were accumulating, or had been prepared to accumulate, enriched uranium", the IAEA said in the report seen by the AFP news agency.

The centrifuges concerned are 20 IR-4 centrifuges and a further two "cascades" of 30 IR-6 centrifuges, the report said.

Enriched uranium is needed to produce nuclear fuel, but higher levels of enrichment can also be used to make the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

The IAEA report said that Iran was also pressing ahead with previously reported plans to install further cascades of advanced centrifuges.

Under the 2015 deal with world powers, Iran is only permitted to enrich uranium using less efficient IR-1 centrifuges. The IR-4 and IR-6 models can produce enriched uranium much faster than the IR-1 models.

Iran has scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal signed with world powers in retaliation for US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement last May.

Thursday’s report marks the second time in a month that the IAEA has indicated that Iran is continuing to breach the 2015 deal.

At the end of August, the agency found that Iran has been increasing its stock of enriched uranium and refining it to a higher purity than allowed.

A senior diplomat in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said following Thursday’s report that the latest change "will increase (Iran's) rate of accumulation" of uranium but cautioned that "it's a small number of centrifuges in small cascades".

The machines in question "are not run for production continuously", the source said.

The diplomat added that there had been "no change" in Iran's level of cooperation with the IAEA, and that the agency continued "to receive access to all the sites" it needed to visit.