The Iranian government is complaining about what it calls the “excessive demands” of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to a report Tuesday by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.
Tehran is insisting the IAEA close its investigations into the traces of uranium that were found three years ago at three undeclared nuclear research sites before it agrees to revive the moribund 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with world powers.
“We consider the IAEA’s demands excessive, because their implementation is impossible due to sanctions,” said Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi. “If they lift sanctions. . . then Iran will reciprocate.”
The IAEA censured Iran this past June over the presence of traces of uranium found in 2019 at three undeclare nuclear research sites. In response, Iran removed the agency’s surveillance cameras at key nuclear sites, ending the ability of agency inspectors – and negotiators – to determine what is going on with the country’s uranium enrichment program.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said a week ago the agency does not intend to close the probes. “Let us have an explanation,” he said. “Where is it now?
“Give us the necessary answers, people and places so we can clarify the many things needed for clarification,” Grossi said in a statement, adding the IAEA will not close the investigation without getting those answers.
“Absolutely not,” he told CNN. “We want to be able to clarify these things. So far Iran has not given us the technically credible explanations we need to explain origin of many traces of uranium, the presence of equipment at places. This idea that politically we are going to stop doing our job is unacceptable for us,” he said.
Uranium Enrichment Stepped Up, Underground
Meanwhile, Iran is stepping up its enrichment of uranium with an upgraded program using advanced centrifuges, according to an IAEA report seen this past Monday by the Reuters news agency.
The first of three cascades (clusters) of advanced IR-6 centrifuges recently installed at the underground Natanz nuclear plant are now in operation, according to the report.
Last month, a second IR6 cascade at the underground Fordow nuclear plant began enriching uranium to 20 percent purity.
Iran has been using IR-6 centrifuges for more than a year to enrich uranium to up to 60 percent purity – a short hop from the 90 percent purity needed to create an atomic bomb.
The advanced centrifuges, however, are equipped with modified sub-headers that will allow Iran to switch quickly and easily to enriching uranium at higher purity levels – levels that can make it far easier to jump to weapons-grade enrichment.
“On 7 July 2022, Iran informed the Agency that, on the same day, it had begun feeding the aforementioned cascade with UF6 enriched up to 5 percent U-235,” warned the confidential report to IAEA member states.
UF6 is uranium hexafluoride gas that is fed into the centrifuges to be enriched to higher purity.
“On 9 July 2022, the Agency verified that Iran had begun feeding UF6 enriched up to 5 percent U-235 into the cascade of 166 IR-6 centrifuges with modified sub-headers for the declared purpose of producing UF6 enriched up to 20 percent U-235,” the IAEA reported.
In the most recent report to UN member states, the IAEA wrote, “On 28 August 2022, the Agency verified at FEP (Fuel Enrichment Plant) that Iran was feeding UF6 enriched up to 2 percent U-235 into the IR-6 cascade…for the production of UF6 enriched up to 5 percent U-235.”
Two more IR-6 cascades at the site are being prepared to start enrichment activities but have not yet gone into operation.
Although Iran continues to deny any intention of creating nuclear weapons, its government continues to advance a banned ballistic missile program, and to threaten Israel with annihilation.