A senior official at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) says the country can easily enrich uranium to levels above 20 percent, even to 90 percent purity, a few days after Iran began 20-percent uranium enrichment at its Fordow nuclear facility.
“[Our] progress has been made in such a way that we can easily enrich uranium to any percentage, even above 40, 60 and 90 percent,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, the AEOI’s spokesman, said on Thursday, according to Fars news agency.
Iran’s government announced on Monday the beginning of a process to enrich uranium to 20 percent, after President Hassan Rouhani ordered the implementation of a new law, dubbed the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions, which was recently passed by the parliament.
President [Rouhani] had ordered the beginning of 20-percent enrichment a couple of days ago, and the process of injecting gas [into centrifuges] has started after informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) … and the first UF6 product will be out a few hours from now,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.
Kamalvandi, who was talking to reporters, explained that under the new law, the AEOI is allowed to enrich uranium even above 20 percent if there is a need for that in other areas, adding, “So, we are examining other areas as well.”
“If we decide to enrich [uranium] above 20 percent today, it can be easily done and we are considering the needs [in other areas],” he reiterated.
Tehran began to scale back its commitments under a multilateral nuclear agreement with world powers in May 2019, a year after US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the deal – officially known as the joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and slapped the “toughest ever” sanctions on Iran.
However, Iranian officials have stated on numerous occasions that the move will be reversed as soon as the other parties to the JCPOA return to full compliance with the deal and protect Iran’s interests.
Early last month, Iranian lawmakers voted in favor of the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions, which tasked the Iranian administration with suspending more commitments under the JCPOA.
The law requires the AEOI to produce at least 120 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium annually and start the installation, gas injection, enrichment and storage of nuclear materials up to an appropriate enrichment degree within a period of three months using at least 1,000 IR-2m centrifuges.
Rouhani’s administration, which was initially critical of the action plan, later said it would go on with the implementation of the law.
Following the Monday announcement, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter to say the 20 percent enrichment was completely legal under the JCPOA, and that the IAEA has been duly notified.
“We resumed 20% enrichment, as legislated by our Parliament,” Zarif said. “Our remedial action conforms fully with Para 36 of JCPOA, after years of non-compliance by several other JCPOA participants.”
He added, “Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL.”
Kamalvandi announced a few hours after Iran restarted the enrichment to 20 percent at Fordow that Iran had produced its first UF6 (uranium hexafluoride or hex) product.
“Considering the previous experience of enrichment in Fordow facility, the new production line for enriching uranium to 20 percent was prepared very quickly,” he added