Natanz nuclear facility in Iran
Natanz nuclear facility in IranReuters

Iran has installed extra advanced centrifuges at its underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and plans to add even more, a report by the UN atomic watchdog on Wednesday showed, according to Reuters.

The report is the latest evidence that Iran is pressing ahead with the installation of the advanced machines, even though it is not allowed to use them to produce enriched uranium under the 2015 agreement.

“On 21 April 2021, the Agency verified at FEP (Fuel Enrichment Plant in Natanz -ed.) that: ... six cascades of up to 1,044 IR-2m centrifuges; and two cascades of up to 348 IR-4 centrifuges ... were installed, of which a number were being used,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report to member states said. The report was seen by Reuters.

A previous report said that the IAEA verified on March 31 that Iran was using 696 IR-2m machines and 174 IR-4 machines at the FEP.

Wednesday’s report also said Iran informed the IAEA that it plans to install four more cascades, or clusters, of IR-4 centrifuges at the FEP, where both of the IR-4 cascades it had planned have now been installed.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

It has continued to do so even as current US President Joe Biden has indicated a desire to return to the deal.

Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi announced recently that Iran would begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, its highest level to date in response to the blackout and explosion which occurred at the Natanz nuclear facility over the weekend.

The move would shorten Iran's breakout time to being able to construct a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA report follows talks aimed at returning the United States to the 2015 deal. Diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia have been meeting since early this month in a luxury Vienna hotel, while US diplomats are participating indirectly in the talks from a nearby hotel.

The US and European Union both said on Tuesday that more work was needed to revive the 2015 deal, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the "negotiations have achieved 60-70 percent progress."