July 2015 Iran nuclear deal: agreement in Vienna. From left to right: Foreign ministers/secretaries of state Wang Yi (China), Laurent Fabius (France), Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), Federica Mogherini (EU), Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran), Philip Hammond (UK), John Kerry (USA). (Photo: Dragan Tatic, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Iran is stepping up its breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal despite Joe Biden’s efforts to salvage the accord. A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency obtained by Reuters this week confirms that Tehran is installing more efficient centrifuges to enrich uranium at its underground plant at Natanz. Speeding-up uranium enrichment allows Iran to acquire more quickly the fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon. Under the 2015 agreement, Iran can only use first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. However, in December Iran told the IAEA that it had begun enriching uranium with the more efficient IR-2 centrifuges and that it would install three more IR-2 cascades or clusters. “Iran has completed the installation of one of these three cascades, containing 174 IR-2m centrifuges, and, on 30 January 2021, Iran began feeding the cascade with UF6,” the IAEA report says referring to uranium hexafluoride feedstock. Iran has also begun installing one of the remaining two cascades of IR-2m machines while the other’s installation was “nearing completion,” the IAEA said. Iran’s envoy to the IAEA boasted of the increased speed with which the Islamic Republic can now enrich uranium and also highlighted developments at the Fordow site. “Thanks to our diligent nuclear scientists, two cascades of 348 IR2m centrifuges with almost 4 times the capacity of IR1 are now running… successfully in Natanz. Installation of 2 cascades of IR-6 centrifuges has also been started in Fordo. There’s more to come soon.” The IR-6 is 10 times faster than the IR-1 at enriching uranium. US secretary of state Anthony Blinken warned at the weekend that Iran is just months away from being able to produce enough material to build a nuclear weapon, but said this could be cut to “a matter of weeks” if Tehran continues to increase its breaches of the deal.
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