President Hassan Rouhani (R) and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi inspecting a nuclear plant, Tehran, April 9, 2019
Iran has further suspended its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, restarting advanced uranium centrifuges.
The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, told a news conference on Saturday of Iran’s “third step” of suspension, implemented after failure to establish a link with Europe to bypass US sanctions and prop up the Islamic Republic’s troubled economy.
He said 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges have resumed uranium enrichment:
We have started lifting limitations on our Research and Development imposed by the deal….It will include development of more rapid and advanced centrifuges….All these steps are reversible if the other side fulfills its promises.
Kamalvandi said the International Atomic Energy Agency has been informed of the development.
President Hassan Rouhani announced on Wednesday that Iran would resume research and development of the advanced centrifuges.
After setting a July deadline for a European financial mechanism, Iran has already broken the agreement’s limit on stocks of 3.67% uranium and raised enrichment to 4.5% in July. Rouhani also announced resumption of work on the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, suspended under the deal pending a redesign to prevent plutonium byproduct.
Iran’s uranium production has been based on the IR-1 centrifuge. Months before the 2015 nuclear deal, IR-2m centrifuges were installed but were not operational, while research was being pursued on the IR-4 and IR-6 models — four and six times as efficient at the IR-1.
Under the JCPOA, Iran put all IR-2m centrifuges in storage for 19 years, with monitoring by the IAEA, and halted development of the IR-4 and IR-6 versions.
Tehran has stopped short of declaring a return to the pre-2015 production of 20% uranium, which can be enriched to 90% for military use.
In February, the European Union launched a mechanism, INSTEX, to bypass US sanctions with non-dollar trade in Iranian oil and other commodities and goods. But Tehran’s leadership refused the arrangement because of “humiliating conditions”: the EU’s concern over missiles, Iran’s activities in the Middle East, and alleged involvement in bomb and assassination plots in Europe.