US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned Iran’s reactivation this week of uranium enrichment at the Fordow nuclear site, which comes in violation of the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) nuclear deal signed by Iran with world powers.
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi announced in a statement carried by state media on Thursday, “After all successful preparations … injection of uranium gas into centrifuges began on Thursday at Fordow. The entire process has been supervised by the inspectors of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
“The process will take a few hours to stabilize and by Saturday, when International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors will again visit the site … an enrichment level of 4.5 percent will have been achieved,” Kamalvandi added.
Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction. This is the fourth such step Tehran has taken after sanctions were reinstated by the United States in response to Iran’s violations of the nuclear deal. Washington withdrew from the agreement in May 2018, citing Tehran’s repeated violations of the JCPOA.
Under the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement, Iran agreed to turn Fordow into a “nuclear, physics and technology center” where 1,044 centrifuges were to be employed in producing stable isotopes, — which have a variety of civil uses – rather than for purposes of enrichment.
“Iran’s latest nuclear escalations reflect the regime’s intentions all along: to extort the international community into accepting its violence and terror while it undermines the sovereignty of its neighbors,” Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday.
“Iran’s expansion of proliferation-sensitive activities raises concerns that Iran is positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout,” Pompeo warned in a statement. The international community “should imagine how Iran would behave with a nuclear weapon. The United States will never allow this to happen.
“It is now time for all nations to reject this regime’s nuclear extortion and take serious steps to increase pressure. Iran’s continued and numerous nuclear provocations demand such action,” Pompeo added.
Tehran tells IAEA to remove detained inspector from its list
Iran has confirmed that it briefly detained a United Nations IAEA nuclear inspector, and seized her travel documents, claiming she was prevented from gaining access to the Natanz uranium enrichment facility last week because she tested positive for traces of explosives, Voice of America reported.
The Iranian representative to the IAEA said the inspector was repatriated and that Tehran had asked she be removed from the list of designated inspectors.
At an emergency meeting of the agency’s 35-state Board of Governors on Thursday, US Ambassador to the IAEA Jackie Wolcott called on members to “make clear now and going forward that such actions are completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated and must have consequences.” The European Union also expressed “deep concern” by the incident and called on Iran to “ensure no such incidents occur in the future.”
The bottom line, however, is that Iran received no consequence in response to the incident.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nevertheless praised the agency on Thursday for holding an emergency meeting to discuss Iran’s decision to “go rogue” with its nuclear development activities.
Iran had also refused to cooperate with UN inspectors who were investigating traces of uranium particles that were discovered in a warehouse in Tehran earlier in the year. The warehouse, which contained Iran’s archive of documents describing its nuclear development program, was raided by Israeli intelligence agents last year.