IAEA says Iran enriching uranium with new 'advanced machine' in latest breach of nuclear deal

IAEA says Iran enriching uranium with new 'advanced machine' in latest breach of nuclear deal
Iran's recent acceleration in nuclear enrichment activity is seen as a bid to force the Biden administration to the negotiating table on its terms.
2 min read
Iran began publicly breaching the nuclear deal after Washington's withdrawal in 2018 [Getty/ Archive]

Iran has started using a new type of advanced centrifuge to enrich uranium at the underground Natanz plant in central Iran, the UN's nuclear watchdog said on Monday.

The move marks a further breach of Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

"On 15 March 2021, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding the cascade of 174 IR-4 centrifuges already installed at FEP with natural UF6," Reuters quoted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report to UN member states read.

"In summary, as of 15 March 2021, Iran was using 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges installed in 30 cascades, 522 IR-2m centrifuges installed in three cascades and 174 IR-4 centrifuges installed in one cascade, to enrich natural UF6 up to 5 percent U-235 at FEP," it added.

Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear programme to levels well under the capacity to build atomic bombs in return for sanctions relief from the international parties to the accord.

After the United States unilaterally dropped out of the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal's limits on its nuclear development.

Iran's most recent breaches of the deal's restrictions are seen as part of a capaign to pressure US President Joe Biden to make the first move in reviving the JCPOA.

The Biden administration's pointman on Iran, Rob Malley, has said that Washington would not rush to renew the nuclear deal before Iran's June elections that are expected to see the rise of a more hardline president.

Some experts, however, counter that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ultimately calls the shots in Iran and that a new president would at most change the optics.

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