0141 GMT December 12, 2019
Ali Akbar Salehi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran attributed the rise to the work at Fordo.
Iran resumed uranium enrichment at Fordo as it also crossed other limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal that began to unravel after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord over a year ago. Under the nuclear accord, Fordo was supposed to be a research lab — and not used for uranium enrichment.
Iran hopes to pressure Europe through these moves and get European nations to offer it a way to sell its crude oil abroad despite American sanctions.
Salehi told AP in Tehran that the country is now producing at least 5.5 kilograms daily (12 pounds). That's compared to what Tehran had been producing — about 450 grams (one pound) of low-enriched uranium per day.
The increase in enrichment comes from the inclusion of over 1,000 centrifuges at Fordo, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Qom, a holy city, Salehi said. Shielded by the mountains, the facility also is ringed by antiaircraft guns and other fortifications. It is about the size of a football field, large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges.
"I believe (that) in total, 5.5 kilograms is the daily volume of uranium enrichment in Natanz and Fordo," Salehi said, mentioning Iran's other nuclear facility at Natanz, where over 5,000 centrifuges now spin. Salehi suggested the figure could go as high at six kilograms (13 pounds) a day.
Iran currently enriches uranium to up to 4.5%. Uranium enriched to 4.5% can be used at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant — Iran's only one of its kind. Iran began to pour concrete into foundations on Sunday for a second reactor in Bushehr.
Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes but the West had pushed for the nuclear deal over its concerns about the program.