Iran has begun operating new cascades of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium and plans to install more in the coming weeks, the UN’s atomic watchdog said Friday.

The move advances Iran’s nuclear activities further despite facing widespread criticism over its program.

In a report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said its inspectors verified on Monday that Iran had started feeding uranium into three cascades of advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility.

Cascades are groups of centrifuges that spin uranium gas to enrich it more quickly.

While Iran is currently enriching uranium up to only 2 per cent purity in these new cascades, it already enriches uranium up to 60 per cent elsewhere – just a technical step away from 90 per cent weapons-grade levels.

Tehran also intends to install 18 IR-2m centrifuge cascades at Natanz and 8 IR-6 cascades at Fordo, which can enrich uranium faster than Iran’s baseline IR-1 centrifuges.

The moves come shortly after the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution censuring Iran for not fully cooperating with the agency’s monitoring efforts.

Iran had threatened retaliation over the censure.

The United States strongly criticized the centrifuge escalation, with State Department spokesman Matthew Miller stating: “Iran aims to continue expanding its nuclear program in ways that have no credible peaceful purpose… If Iran implements these plans, we will respond accordingly.”

Since the 2018 US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Tehran has rapidly advanced its nuclear enrichment capabilities while still allowing IAEA monitoring under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But it has imposed limits on inspectors amid tensions with the West over restoring the deal.

Source » aawsat