Enrichment capacity to hit pre-JCPOA level: AEOI spokesman
Iran’s ambassador to the UK described the latest reduction in the country’s commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal as a “wake-up call” for other parties, warning European signatories of a crisis over the collapsing accord.
Hamid Baeidinejad told a group of UK mainstream media representatives on Thursday that Tehran’s move this week to inject gas into centrifuges at its Fordo plant was “adopted as a warning to the other sides and the international community that we are at a crisis.”
A member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team during the marathon talks that culminated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Baeidinejad said Iran will continue to increase its nuclear activity every two months unless it receives the economic benefits it was promised when it signed the nuclear deal with world powers.
“We hope this warning would encourage all other parties to implement their commitments. … Now it depends on the other side — if they don’t take this warning seriously … we will be in a very difficult situation,” he warned.
The nuclear deal was reached in Vienna in July 2015 between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Germany Russia, and China. It lifted nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran, which in turn changed some aspects of its nuclear program.
The US, however, left the accord last May and reinstated its unilateral sanctions against Iran. The European deal partners, meanwhile, have bowed to Washington’s pressure, failing to honor their contractual obligations to protect Iran’s economy in the face of America’s “toughest-ever” sanctions.
In his Thursday comments, the Iranian ambassador dismissed European arguments that it is difficult for them to circumvent the US sanctions.
“They have made commitments that are defined in very clear terms and they should be able to implement those commitments,” Baeidinejad said.
In reaction to Washington’s withdrawal from the deal and Europe’s inaction, Tehran has cut its compliance with the JCPOA in four phases, the latest of which was the resumption of enrichment at the Fordo nuclear facility near Tehran.
The fourth step, the injection of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into centrifuges at Fordo, is believed to be the most important step so far, and a serious warning to other parties.
Enrichment capacity to go up
The spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said with the new centrifuges installed, Iran’s enrichment capacity is to reach the level it was before signing the agreement.
Speaking in an interview on Thursday, Behrouz Kamalvandi said, “With the new machines, which have been installed after taking the third step [to reduce Iran's commitments under the deal], 2,600 SWU (separative work units) have been added to the country’s enrichment capacity.”
“A total of 15 new machines were installed after the third step, which increased our total nuclear production capacity to 2,600 SWU. Today, the work at Fordo has been finished and four more cascades will be added… to increase our total capacity by about 700 SWU. When the work is totally done, our overall [enrichment] capacity will stand at about 9,500 SWU, which is the level we held before signing the JCPOA,” Kamalvandi added.
“Of course, our pre-JCPOA [enrichment] capacity was 1,000 SWU more [than this]. But the difference is that we have many advanced machines at our disposal. The farther we go, the more we can harvest from these machines. Also, the knowledge that we receive will help us enhance the quality and functionality of the machines,” he said.
Following a meeting on Thursday to discuss Iran’s latest nuclear measures, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a statement via its spokesman, confirming that Iran has moved a cylinder of uranium hexafluoride gas to its Fordo site and connected it to centrifuges there.
The statement added that UF6 gas cylinder was connected to two cascades of centrifuges for passivation, which it said was “a preparatory activity conducted prior to enrichment.”
A more detailed IAEA report sent to member states said the other four cascades of centrifuges installed at Fordo “remained unchanged.”
Mohammad Saeidi, a former AEOI deputy, said Tehran has even more important measures to take if other parties fail to fulfill their commitments.
“I believe that in case of other signatories’ failure to live up to their commitments, we have other very important measures which they will witness when the time for the next steps arrives,” he told Tabnak news website, stressing that the next steps would be more important than the fourth one.
“If the nuclear issue of Iran matters to Europeans, they must make their decision whether they want to preserve the accord or they really want to leave it and not fulfill their commitments,” he added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern about Tehran’s announcements but said European powers should do their part.
“They are demanding that Iran fulfil all (obligations) without exception but are not giving anything in return,” he told reporters in Moscow.
The Kremlin has previously called sanctions against Iran “unprecedented and illegal.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said Iran had made “grave” decisions and its resumption of uranium enrichment was a “profound change” from Tehran’s previous position.
The next few weeks will be dedicated to increasing pressure on Iran to return within the framework of the pact, the French president said during a trip to Beijing, adding that this must be “accompanied by an easing of some sanctions.”
“A return to normal can only take place if the United States and Iran agree to reopen a sort of trust agenda" and dialogue, Macron said, adding that he would discuss the issue with US President Donald Trump.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe has not yet taken a decision on how to respond to Iran’s decision to resume enriching uranium but every step Tehran takes makes things more difficult.
“We have not yet taken a final decision,” Merkel told a joint news conference in Berlin with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “But with each step Iran takes the situation naturally gets more difficult.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called for “serious steps” to be taken against Iran, after the Islamic Republic resumed uranium enrichment at Fordo.
“Iran’s expansion of proliferation-sensitive activities raises concerns that Iran is positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout,” Pompeo said in a statement, urging serious steps to be taken to increase pressure on Tehran.
Security of nuclear facilities
Meanwhile, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA said Thursday he communicated Tehran’s concerns about security of the country’s nuclear facilities to the agency, especially with regard to an IAEA inspector who was prevented from entering an Iranian nuclear site for carrying “suspicious” materials.
Kazem Gharibabadi said following an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Governors of the IAEA that he had offered a lengthy report on this issue to IAEA’s board, detailing everything that happened from the entry of the aforesaid inspector to Iran until the time she left the country.
“I emphasized that Iran has security concerns in this regard and does not intend to violate the immunity of IAEA’s inspectors, because we have not violated their rights and are aware of the stipulations of international law and our commitments.”
Iran’s IAEA envoy noted that detectors at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility had issued alarms with regard to this inspector, showing that she was carrying dangerous materials, saying, “Various measures were taken later and detectors were used at various locations, giving the same result, even when they were applied to her handbag.”
Noting that an investigation is underway on this issue in cooperation with the agency, Gharibabadi said, “We told members of the IAEA that in view of the past record of acts of sabotage against our nuclear facilities, we will under no circumstances compromise our national security and the security of our nuclear facilities, and we insist that the agency must offer us full cooperation to carry this investigation until its final stage.”
He emphasized that the agency has announced in writing that it is ready to cooperate with Iran in the investigation of the incident regarding its inspector and this issue has been welcomed by the Iranian side.
The AEOI on Wednesday announced that an IAEA inspector, who was prevented from entering the nuclear site has left the country.
The AEOI added that the female monitor left her mission unfinished and flew out of Iran after security staff at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility didn’t let her in.
“As it is protocol, all of the IAEA inspectors’ belongings are closely inspected and scanned before they enter any of the country’s nuclear facilities,” read the AEOI statement.
“Upon this lady inspector’s entry, the security control machines sounded the alarm and denied her entry,” it said, adding that Iran had reported the issue to the IAEA.
Iran also told the international agency in the report that the inspector’s previous admissions at various sites were all scrapped and as a result, she decided to abort her mission and go back to the Austrian capital of Vienna.
Press TV, Reuters and AFP contributed to this report.