Photo Credit: US Photonics Inc. / US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Gas Centrifuges used to enrich uranium, 1984 (illustrative)

The Islamic Republic of Iran announced Saturday on its 15th annual “National Nuclear Technology Day” that it has begun to operate cascades of 164 advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium.

In a state televised ceremony held at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, cascades of IR-6 centrifuges and 30 IR-5 devices were officially inaugurated by President Hassan Rouhani, who unveiled Iran’s “133 new nuclear achievements.”

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According to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency, “The major projects and products include the second phase of industrial plants producing deuterated compounds in Khandab in Arak, an emergency care for burns using radiation therapy in Arak, six nuclear enrichment projects in Natanz, disk lasers, Iran Quantum Technologies Center in Tehran, a number of centrifuge machines used by the Blood Transfusion Organization of Iran, and 110 isotope-based biomolecules used in neonatal screening kits.

“The other outstanding achievements included a device for online metering of uranium hexafluoride purity, four new radiopharmaceuticals, the prototypes of IR9S and IR9-1B centrifuge machines for enriching uranium, and a 3D metal printer using laser.

“Moreover, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran began injecting gas into a complete chain of 164 IR6 centrifuge machines, inaugurated a station purifying the Uranium Hexafluoride input in Natanz enrichment facility, and operated an assembly line manufacturing new machinery at Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility,” the news agency reported.

The move, a fresh violation of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, comes less than a week after the start of indirect talks with the United States – which pulled out of the agreement in 2018 on renewing the nuclear deal.

In a report published last Friday, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said, without being specific, that limits on Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium were violated at Iran’s Esfahan nuclear facility, according to Reuters, which reported the agency carefully avoided specific language accusing Iran of violating the terms of the deal.

“On 7 April 2021, the Agency verified at the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant at Esfahan that Iran had dissolved six unirradiated scrap fuel plates for the TRR [Tehran Research Reactor] containing 0.43 kg of uranium enriched up to 20 percent U-235,” the IAEA report said.

In comments released Friday through his Instagram account, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi said, “The number of our centrifuges and the amount of enriched (nuclear) material are increasing rapidly.” Iran has presented the list of its demands, including “1,600 sanctions that must be terminated,” he said, adding that Western parties would be the “big loser” if sanctions are not lifted.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.