Iran said Saturday it has started mechanical tests on its latest advanced nuclear centrifuge, even as the five world powers that remain in a foundering 2015 nuclear deal with Iran effort to bring the U.S. back to the agreement.
Iran’s IR-9 centrifuge, when operational, would have the ability to separate uranium isotopes more quickly than the current centrifuges used, thereby enriching uranium at a faster pace. The announcement carried on state TV came on Iran’s 15th annual”Nuclear Day.”
The IR-9’s output is 50 times faster than the first Iranian centrifuge, the IR-1. The country also announced it had launched a chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges Saturday, and is also growing IR-8 centrifuges.
Since January, Iran has started enriching uranium at up to 20% purity, a technical measure away from weapons-grade degrees, though Iran’s leadership insists the country has no desire to develop a nuclear weapon.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. from the nuclear accord in 2018, accusing Iran of failing to live up to the agreement, opting for what he called a maximum-pressure effort of stepped-up U.S. sanctions and other tough actions.
Iran responded by intensifying its enrichment of uranium and building centrifuges in plain violation of the accord, while insisting that its nuclear development is for civilian not military purposes.
Israel asserts Iran still maintains the ambition of developing nuclear weapons, pointing to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and research into other technologies.
Iran denies it is pursuing nuclear weapons, and says its atomic program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached 121 pounds, moving its nuclear program closer to weapons-grade enrichment levels. The total amount of the substance was 17 kilograms in January.
Iran has installed 1,000 IR2 centrifuge machines and one cascade of 164 IR4 machines. Both are in operation and have more speed than the IR1 machines.
Since late February, Iran has stopped abiding with a confidential agreement with the U.N.’s atomic watchdog attained within the landmark 2015 atomic deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency has additional protocols with several countries it monitors.
Under the protocol with Iran, the IAEA”collects and analyzes hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017. The agency also said then that it had put”2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment.”
However, Iran’s parliament passed a bill in December requiring the government to limit its cooperation with the IAEA and push its nuclear program beyond the limits of the 2015 atomic deal. After the bill became law, Iran then started enriching uranium up to 20% purity and turning innovative centrifuges — both barred by the deal.
Iran asserts that the U.S.’s departure from the nuclear deal was the first breach of the deal by county and therefore the U.S. should make the first move and remove sanctions before Iran returns to compliance.
President Joe Biden came into office saying that getting back in the accord and getting Iran’s nuclear program back under international restrictions was a priority. But Iran and the United States have disagreed over Iran’s requirements that sanctions be lifted . That deadlock has threatened to become an early foreign policy setback for the new U.S. president.
Talks in Vienna aimed at bringing the U.S. back into the deal with Iran broke Friday without any immediate signs of progress on issues dividing Washington and Tehran.
However, delegates spoke of a constructive atmosphere and resolved to keep the discussions.