Iran ramps up uranium enrichment as nuclear deal looms

Because the advanced centrifuges are installed in sites deep underground, Western airstrikes aimed at stopping the enrichment could prove ineffective.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Iran has ramped up its advanced uranium enrichment processes, as the signing of a nuclear deal, which would see the end of crippling sanctions levied against the Islamic Republic in exchange for a pledge to curb its nuclear program, seems closer than ever.

According to a classified report by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) watchdog group, which was obtained by Reuters, Tehran is moving full speed ahead with uranium enrichment, a move that comes after Iran repeatedly violated international agreements about the process.

Reuters reported that for more than a year, Iran has been enriching uranium at up to 60 percent purity, the amount which is necessary in order to create a nuclear weapon, at one of its nuclear sites.

Now, the country has installed additional advanced centrifuges to speed up enrichment at the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) located within the Natanz nuclear development site and Fordow nuclear site, which is inside of a mountain. The new centrifuges are enriching uranium faster, but at a lower purity rate.

The nuclear deal that Tehran and Western powers appear to be close to signing would see Iran agree to using only first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which would significantly slow down the uranium enrichment process.

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“On 28 August 2022, the Agency verified at FEP that Iran was feeding UF6 enriched up to 2% U-235 into the IR-6 cascade … for the production of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235,” the IAEA wrote in a confidential missive to UN member states.

The fact that Iran is continuing to move ahead with its uranium enrichment program and appears to be taking steps to speed up the process has sparked concerns among Western diplomats about Iran’s intentions in signing the agreement.

Because the advanced centrifuges are installed in sites deep underground, Western airstrikes aimed at stopping the enrichment could prove ineffective, Reuters noted.

Israel and the U.S. have repeatedly signaled in recent weeks that they are prepared to take military action against Iran in order to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.