Iran expanding operation of enriching Uranium says UN Agency

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • UN Watchdog Says Iran Plans to Ramp Up Uranium Enrichment
  • The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] said Thursday that its Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi told members that Iran informed the agency that it planned to install two new cascades of the IR-6 at Natanz. A cascade is a series of centrifuges hooked together to rapidly spin uranium gas to enrich it.
  • Iran already has been holding footage from IAEA surveillance cameras since February 2021 as a pressure tactic to restore the atomic accord.
  • The censure resolution at the IAEA meeting in Vienna, sponsored by Germany, France, the U.K. and U.S., passed with the support of 30 of 35 governors. Russia and China voted against, Russian ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov wrote on Twitter. India, Libya and Pakistan abstained.
  • After the vote, a joint statement from France, Germany, and the U.K. and the U.S. said the censure “sends an unambiguous message to Iran that it must meet its safeguards obligations and provide technically credible clarifications on outstanding safeguards issues.”

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Time is Running out on JCPOA. Israel says Iran has enough uranium for a bomb

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Israel says Iran has nearly enough uranium for a bomb, as talks remain stuck
  • While Iran is not yet enriching uranium to weapons-grade, 90% purity, larger quantities of uranium enriched to a lower purity can be enough for a bomb. Jerusalem’s assessment is that Iran is close to having a significant quantity of uranium enriched to 60%.
  • Negotiations for the US and Iran to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ended weeks ago, with Iran making a demand outside of the nuclear agreement, for its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be removed from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
  • Israel opposed the original deal its revival, pointing out that most of its limitations on Iran’s nuclear activities expire at the end of 2025, and that the agreement does not restrict Iran’s malign actions in the region or its ballistic missile program while lifting sanctions would lead to a major cash influx for terrorism, proxy warfare and weapons.
  • In recent months, the US, EU and E3 – Britain, France and Germany – have warned that little time remains before the deal’s nonproliferation benefits will become irrelevant, as Iran continues to violate the JCPOA.

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Iran allegedly launches rocket

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • Iranian state TV says Tehran launched rocket into space
  • The state TV report, as well as others by Iran’s semiofficial news agencies, did not say when the launch was conducted nor what devices the carrier brought with it. However, the launch comes amid difficult negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal.
  • Iran’s TV aired footage of the white rocket emblazoned with the words, “Simorgh satellite carrier” and the slogan “We can”
  • However, officials were silent on whether the launched objects had actually reached orbit.
  • Iran has now abandoned all limitations under the agreement, and has ramped up uranium enrichment from under 4% purity to 60% — a short, technical step from weapons-grade levels. International inspectors face challenges in monitoring Tehran’s advances.

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Iran insists it can enrich uranium to 90% purity – weapons grade – if needed

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) -Iran said on Wednesday it could enrich uranium up to 90% purity — weapons grade — if its nuclear reactors needed it, but added it still sought the revival of a 2015 deal that would limit its atomic program in return for a lifting of sanctions.

President Hassan Rouhani’s remark is his second such public comment this year about 90% enrichment — a level suitable for a nuclear bomb — underlining Iran’s resolve to keep breaching the deal in the absence of any accord to revive it.

The biggest obstacle to producing nuclear weapons is obtaining enough fissile material – weapons-grade highly enriched uranium or plutonium – for the bomb’s core.

Iran says it has never sought nuclear weapons.

“Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization can enrich uranium by 20% and 60% and if one day our reactors need it, it can enrich uranium to 90% purity,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting, Iranian state media reported.

The nuclear deal caps the fissile purity to which Tehran can refine uranium at 3.67%, well under the 20% achieved before the pact and far below the 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon.

Iran has been breaching the deal in several ways after the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018, including by producing 20% and 60% enriched uranium.

Rouhani, who will hand over the presidency to hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi on Aug. 5, implicitly criticized Iran’s top decision makers for “not allowing” his government to reinstate the nuclear deal during its term in office.

“They took away the opportunity to reach an agreement from this government. We deeply regret missing this opportunity,” the state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not the president, has the last say on all state matters such as nuclear policy.

Like Khamenei, Raisi has backed indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at bringing back the arch foes into full compliance with the accord. Former U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal three years ago, saying it was biased in favour of Iran, and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran.

The sixth round of nuclear talks in Vienna adjourned on June 20. The next round of the talks has yet to be scheduled, and Iranian and Western officials have said that significant gaps still remain to be resolved.

Two senior Iranian officials told Reuters that president-elect Raisi planned to adopt “a harder line” in the talks after taking office, adding that the next round might resume in late September or early October.

One of the officials said many members of Iran’s nuclear team might be replaced with hardline officials, but top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi would stay “at least for a while”.

The second official said Raisi planned to show “less flexibility and demand more concessions” from Washington such as keeping a chain of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in place and insisting on the removal of human rights and terrorism related U.S. sanctions.

Trump blacklisted dozens of institutions vital to Iran’s economy using laws designed to punish foreign actors for supporting terrorism or weapons proliferation.

Removing oil and financial sanctions is essential if Iran is to export its oil, the top prize for Tehran for complying with the nuclear agreement and reining in its atomic program.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Jason Neely, William Maclean)

Khamenei says Iran may enrich uranium to 60% purity if needed

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday Iran might enrich uranium up to 60% purity if the country needed it and would never yield to U.S. pressure over its nuclear program, state television reported.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers, which it has been breaching since the United States withdrew in 2018, caps the fissile purity to which Tehran can refine uranium at 3.67%, well under the 20% achieved before the agreement and far below the 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon.

“Iran’s uranium enrichment level will not be limited to 20%. We will increase it to whatever level the country needs … We may increase it to 60%,” the TV quoted Khamenei as saying, upping the ante in a stand-off with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration over the future of the fraying deal.

“Americans and the European parties to the deal have used unjust language against Iran … Iran will not yield to pressure. Our stance will not change,” Khamenei said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Khamenei’s comments “sounds like a threat” and declined to respond to what he described as “hypotheticals” and “posturing”.

He reiterated U.S. willingness to engage in talks with Iran about returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Biden administration said last week it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to the accord abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Tehran said last week it was studying a European Union proposal for an informal meeting between current members of the deal and the United States, but has yet to respond to it.

Iran, which has resumed enriching to 20% in an apparent bid to heap pressure on the United States, has been at loggerheads with Washington over which side should take the initial step to revive the accord.

Although under domestic pressure to ease economic hardships worsened by sanctions, Iranian leaders insist Washington must end its punitive campaign first to restore the deal, while Washington says Tehran must first return to full compliance.

DIPLOMACY PATH

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday Washington intended to bolster and extend the 2015 pact, which aimed to limit Iran’s enrichment potential – a possible pathway to atomic bombs – in exchange for a lifting of most sanctions.

Blinken, addressing the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said in a pre-recorded speech: “The United States remains committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. Diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal.”

Khamenei, in his televised remarks, repeated a denial of any Iranian intent to weaponize uranium enrichment.

He added: “That international Zionist clown (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) has said they won’t allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons. First of all, if we had any such intention, even those more powerful than him wouldn’t be able to stop us.”

To pressure the Biden administration to drop sanctions, Iran’s hardline-dominated parliament passed a law last year obliging the government to end roving snap inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog from Tuesday if sanctions are not lifted.

Iran said it would end the implementation of the so-called Additional Protocol, which allows International Atomic Energy Agency to carry out short-notice inspections, at midnight (2030 GMT).

To create room for diplomacy, the U.N. watchdog on Sunday reached a deal with Iran to cushion the blow of Iran’s reduced cooperation and refusal to permit short-notice inspections.

Iranian lawmakers protested on Monday at Tehran’s decision to permit “necessary” monitoring by U.N. inspectors for up to three months, saying this broke the new law.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams)

Iran works on uranium metal for reactor fuel in new breach of nuclear deal

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has started work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran said on Wednesday, in the latest breach of its nuclear deal with six major powers as the country presses for a lifting of U.S. sanctions.

Iran has been accelerating its breaches of the deal in the past two months. Some of those steps were required by a law passed in response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist in November, which Tehran has blamed on its arch-foe Israel.

They are also, however, part of a process started by Tehran in 2019 of committing breaches in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the deal and his re-imposition of U.S. sanctions that the deal lifted in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities.

“(International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today informed IAEA Member States about recent developments regarding Iran’s plans to conduct R&D activities on uranium metal production as part of its declared aim to design an improved type of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor,” the IAEA said in a statement.

The agency issues ad hoc reports to member states when Iran commits a new breach of the deal, though it declines to call them breaches, leaving that call to parties to the 2015 accord.

The deal specifically imposes a 15-year ban on Iran producing or acquiring uranium metal, a sensitive material that can be used in the core of a nuclear bomb.

The IAEA’s confidential report to member states, obtained by Reuters, said Iran had indicated it plans to produce uranium metal from natural uranium and then produce uranium metal enriched up to 20% for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor.

The deal also says that can only happen in small batches and in consultation with parties to the deal after 10 years.

Separately Iran also plans to enrich uranium to 20%, a level it last reached before the 2015 deal, at its Fordow site buried in a mountain, and it started that process last week. It had so far only gone as far as 4.5%, above the 3.67% limit imposed by the deal but still far short of the 90% that is weapons grade.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons program that it halted in 2003. Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons and says its aims with nuclear energy are entirely peaceful.

Iran told the agency on Wednesday, however, that “there is no limitation on (its) R&D activities” and “modification and installation of the relevant equipment for the mentioned R&D activities have been already started” at its Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant in Isfahan, the IAEA report said.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Editing by William Maclean)

Iran resumes 20% uranium enrichment amid rising tensions with U.S

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) -Iran has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, the government said on Monday, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers.

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Iran’s arch foe Israel, said the move was aimed at developing nuclear weapons and Israel would never allow Tehran to build them.

The enrichment decision, Iran’s latest contravention of the accord, coincides with increasing tensions between Iran and the United States.

Tehran started violating the accord in 2019 in a step-by-step response to Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018 and the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions lifted under the deal.

The agreement’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing 20% enriched uranium has started in Fordow enrichment complex,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told Iranian state media.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20% purity at its Fordow site.

“Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20%,” the IAEA said in a statement on a report that was sent to member states.

The step was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in response to the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.

“Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL (parties to the deal),” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Tehran insists it can quickly reverse its breaches if U.S. sanctions are removed.

NUCLEAR WATCHDOG

The White House National Security Council had no comment, and referred queries to the U.S. State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tehran’s move could further hinder efforts to salvage the pact as its breaches have increasingly worried some of the deal’s other parties, which have urged Iran to act responsibly.

In Brussels, a European Union Commission spokesperson said that the “move, if confirmed, would constitute a considerable departure from Iran’s commitments”.

On Jan 1, the IAEA said Tehran had told the watchdog it planned to resume enrichment up to 20% at the Fordow site, which is buried inside a mountain.

“The process of gas injection to centrifuges has started a few hours ago and the first product of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas will be available in a few hours,” Rabiei said.

Iran had earlier breached the deal’s 3.67% limit on the purity to which it can enrich uranium, but it had only gone up to 4.5% so far, well short of the 20% level and of the 90% that is weapons-grade.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons program that it halted in 2003. Iran denies ever having had one.

In Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Iran’s enrichment decision could be explained only as a bid to “continue to carry out its intention to develop a military nuclear program.” “Israel will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons,” he added

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington, Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Michael Shields and Francois Murphy in Vienna and Marine Strauss in Brussels Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by William Maclean)

Iran breaches another nuclear deal cap, on heavy water stock: IAEA report

Iran breaches another nuclear deal cap, on heavy water stock: IAEA report
VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has breached another limit of its nuclear deal with major powers by accumulating slightly more than 130 tonnes of heavy water, a substance used in a type of reactor it is developing, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Monday.

The limit is the latest in a series imposed by the deal that Iran has exceeded in protest at Washington’s withdrawal from the deal last year and its imposition of punishing economic sanctions against Tehran.

Heavy water is not as sensitive as uranium, which Iran is enriching in a quantity and to a level of purity beyond limits in the deal. However, the 2015 deal says Iran should not have more heavy water than it needs, specifying this is estimated to be 130 metric tonnes.

“On 16 November 2019, Iran informed the Agency that its stock of heavy water had exceeded 130 metric tonnes,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to member states obtained by Reuters.

“On 17 November 2019, the Agency verified that the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) was in operation and that Iran’s stock of heavy water was 131.5 metric tonnes.”

Heavy water is, among other things, used as a moderator to slow down reactions in the core of nuclear reactors like one Iran has been developing at Arak.

Since that reactor could eventually have produced plutonium, which can also be used in atom bombs, the deal required Iran to remove its core and fill it with concrete. The reactor is now being redesigned with a view to reducing any weapons proliferation risk.

It is not the first time Iran has breached the heavy-water cap. Iran first went over that limit in 2016 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear/iran-once-again-exceeds-a-nuclear-deal-limit-iaea-report-idUSKBN1342T1, soon after the deal went into force and well before the U.S. withdrawal in 2018. Major powers then agreed Iran could store its excess heavy water outside the country while it sought a buyer for it.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Iran launches nuclear enrichment at underground Fordow plant, IAEA confirms

Iran launches nuclear enrichment at underground Fordow plant, IAEA confirms
VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has begun enriching uranium at its underground Fordow site in the latest breach of its deal with major powers, the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed on Monday, adding that Tehran’s enriched uranium stock has continued to grow.

Iran is contravening the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities step by step in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the accord last year and its renewed sanctions on Tehran. Tehran says it can quickly undo those breaches if Washington lifts its sanctions.

In a quarterly report, the International Atomic Energy Agency policing the deal confirmed Iran’s announcement last week that it had begun enriching uranium at its Fordow site buried inside a mountain, something prohibited by the deal. “Since 9 November…, Iran has been conducting uranium enrichment at the plant,” said the confidential IAEA report, obtained by Reuters.

Iran’s stock of enriched uranium has increased, to 372.3 kg, well above the deal’s 202.8 kg cap. The maximum fissile purity to which Iran has enriched uranium so far, however, remains 4.5 %, above the deal’s 3.67% cap but still well below the 20% Iran has achieved before and the 90% required for atomic bomb fuel.

Iran has continued to enrich with centrifuge machines other than its most basic model, the IR-1, which is not allowed under the deal, the IAEA report added. It has enriched with more advanced centrifuges and even installed small numbers of centrifuges not mentioned in the deal, the report showed.

Iran said last week it was working on a advanced prototype of centrifuge that could enrich 50 times as fast as the IR-1, deemed by experts as antiquated and prone to breakdown.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Netanyahu: Iran had secret nuclear weapons development site in Abadeh

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a news conference in Jerusalem September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran had been developing nuclear weapons at a secret site near the city of Abadeh, but that Tehran destroyed the facility after learning it had been exposed.

It was the first time Netanyahu had identified the site, which, he said, was discovered in a trove of Iranian documents Israel previously obtained and disclosed last year.

“In this site, Iran conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks, showing an aerial picture of several small buildings, including their coordinates, that he said were taken at the Abadeh facility late in June 2019.

“When Iran realized that we uncovered the site, here’s what they did,” he said, showing a picture from a month later in which the buildings no longer appeared. “They destroyed the site. They just wiped it out.”

Netanyahu’s comments followed a Reuters report revealing that the International Atomic Energy Agency found traces of uranium at a different site in Iran that the Israeli leader had first pointed to during a speech last year at the United Nations.

Iran had yet to explain the traces of uranium at that site, though it denies ever having sought a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu, who strongly opposed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, made the remarks in a televised speech about a week before a general election in Israel in which he is in a tight race to win another term.

“I call on the international community to wake up, to realize that Iran is systematically lying,” Netanyahu said.

“The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb, and its aggression in the region, is pressure, pressure and more pressure.”

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch,; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Jonathan Oatis)