Iran Resumes 20% Enrichment at Fordow with U.S. Tensions Growing
The government spokesman of Iran says the country has started the enrichment process of uranium to 20 percent purity at its Fordow nuclear facility.
Speaking to IRNA on Monday, Ali Rabiei said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the implementation of a new law, dubbed the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions. The Parliament (Majlis) has already approved the said new legislation.
“President [Hassan Rouhani] had ordered the beginning of 20-percent enrichment a couple of days ago, and the process of injecting gas [into centrifuges] has started after informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) … and the first UF6 product will be out a few hours from now,” Rabiei said.
UN to Inform IAEA Board
Meanwhile, the UN nuclear agency said hours after that its head will inform members of the IAEA's Board of Governors on Monday about the new development in Iran.
“Agency inspectors have been monitoring activities at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant in Iran. Based on their information, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is expected to submit a report to IAEA Member States later today,” a spokesman for the nuclear agency said by email, Reuters reported.
US President Donald Trump, a hawkish critic of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), unilaterally withdrew Washington from the agreement in May 2018. He then unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism.
Following its much-criticized exit, Washington has been attempting to prevent the remaining signatories from abiding by their commitments. With this, it hopes to kill the historic agreement, which many view as a fruit of international diplomacy.
Washington reinstated the sanctions that it had lifted once it became a JCPOA member. It also started to force other countries into committing to the bans and stopping their trade with Tehran.
In Response to the US
In response to the US unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments five times. This came in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA. However, it stressed that they can reverse their retaliatory measures. This can only happen when Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday that the Islamic Republic will soon resume uranium enrichment up to 20 percent.
“We are soldiers of the establishment and our fingers are on the triggers,” Salehi said. He added, “The commander must give the order. We have this readiness and God willing, we will produce [20% enriched uranium] as soon as possible.”
His remarks came a day after the IAEA said that Iran had sent a letter to inform its inspectors.
“Iran has informed the agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant,” the IAEA said in a statement.
The agency said it “has inspectors present in Iran on a 24/7 basis and they have regular access to Fordow.”
Russia: Iran Restarting 20-Percent Uranium Enrichment Not Breaking News
Meanwhile, Russia's Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Iran's announcement of its resumption of 20-percent uranium enrichment did not surprise him. He described it as a “predictable step” in line with the Parliament's plan.
“#Iran announced that it resumes enrichment of uranium to 20%. This isn’t a breaking news. This step was predictable in the light of the law passed by the Iranian Parliament,” Ulyanov tweeted on Monday.
#Iran announced that it resumes enrichment of uranium to 20%. This isn’t a breaking news. This step was predictable in the light of the law passed by the Iranian Parliament. The main point is that it remains reversible within possible normalisation of the situation around #JCPOA.
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) January 4, 2021
He, however, emphasized that Iran's decision “remains reversible” in case of possible normalization of the situation surrounding the JCPOA.
“The main point is that it remains reversible within possible normalization of the situation around #JCPOA,” the top Russian diplomat tweeted.
A European Union Commission spokesperson pointed to Iran's move to increase its uranium enrichment and said: “If confirmed, [the move] would constitute a considerable departure from Iran's commitments.”
“All participants are interested in keeping deal alive. The deal will be kept alive as long as all participants keep their commitments.”
Zarif: Iran Enrichment Resumption Fully Conforms With JCPOA
Following Iranian government spokesman’s announcement, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also took to Twitter, saying that the resumption of 20% uranium enrichment by Iran is totally legal. It was based on recent legislation by the country’s Parliament. Additionally, it keeps the IAEA fully abreast of Tehran's decision.
“We resumed 20% enrichment, as legislated by our Parliament. IAEA has been duly notified,” Zarif said in his tweet.
We resumed 20% enrichment, as legislated by our Parliament.
IAEA has been duly notified.
Our remedial action conforms fully with Para 36 of JCPOA, after years of non-compliance by several other JCPOA participants.
Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 4, 2021
He emphasized that the move is in conformity with Paragraph 36 of the JCPOA. He once again reiterating that all Iran's measures are reversible. This is possible if other signatories to the landmark nuclear deal remain committed to their obligations.
“Our remedial action conforms fully with Para 36 of JCPOA, after years of noncompliance by several other JCPOA participants. Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL,” the top Iranian diplomat tweeted.
Iran Envoy: IAEA Confirms Production of UF6 Enriched Up To 20% Sas Started
Meanwhile, Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran's permanent ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, said in a Twitter post that the IAEA has confirmed the beginning of the production of UF6 enriched up to 20%. She said it was based on an updated Descriptive Information Questionnaire for Fordow.
The IAEA DG reported today that upon provision of an updated DIQ for Fordow, the Agency carried out a DIV at the Site and confirmed that a cylinder containing 137.2 kg of uranium up to 4.1% has been connected to the feeding line and production of UF6 enriched up to 20% started.
— Gharibabadi (@Gharibabadi) January 4, 2021
The IAEA DG reported that after receiving an updated Fordow DIQ, the Agency carried out a DIV at the Site. It also confirmed that the agency has connected a cylinder containing 137.2 kg of uranium up to 4.1% to the feeding line. Additionally, it confirmed that production of UF6 enriched up to 20% started.
IAEA: Iran has started enriching uranium to 20 percent
Later on Monday, the IAEA issued a statement. It confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent.
“Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20 percent,” the statement said.
It added, “IAEA inspectors were present at the site to detach the Agency's seal from a cylinder with the feed material” and that “the cylinder was then connected to the feeding line to start the production of uranium enriched up to 20 percent.”
The Agency uses a total of 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges in the process, the IAEA said.
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