Iran says moving towards readiness to ramp up nuclear program

Al-Monitor – The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran says his country has taken key steps toward being able to quickly resume uranium enrichment to the 20% level, an activity it agreed to suspend under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) struck with world powers in 2015.

Ali Akbar Salehi made the remarks in a lengthy face-to-face interview on Iranian state broadcaster’s Channel 4 on Jan. 22. The nuclear chief unveiled details about the path Iran has already taken toward being able to resume its largely restricted nuclear program. The new plans range from building more power plants to a scheduled transfer of 30 tons of yellowcake to the uranium conversion facility outside the city of Esfahan. The latter would be a key step toward ensuring the availability of raw material should Iran decide to exit the nuclear deal and ramp up its enrichment activities.

He also spoke of what his organization has done to execute a key directive issued by the country’s supreme leader issued last June. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had then called on the country’s nuclear authorities to establish a readiness to expand enrichment capacity to 190,000 separative work units (SWU), which the supreme leader previously described as Iran’s “absolute need.” Iranian officials say the country needs an enrichment capacity of 190,000 SWU to ensure a domestic supply of fuel for the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant. Salehi said a “super modern” hall with necessary facilities has been fully constructed for the purpose of enrichment at the latter scale.

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