TEHRAN – Iran started on Wednesday injecting gas into centrifuges used to enrich uranium at its Fordo atomic plant, taking another step away from its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal.
A tank with 2,000 kg of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) has already been moved from the Natanz facility to Fordow to inject the gas into the centrifuges, according to news agency ISNA.
This process is being carried out in the presence of inspectors of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the agency responsible for monitoring the Iranian nuclear program.
On Tuesday night, the organization’s head, Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the Fordow facility would enrich uranium up to 5 percent apart from producing stable isotopes.
Iran and six major powers signed a nuclear agreement in 2015, which allowed an enrichment limit of 3.67 percent but the United States withdrew from the pact in 2018.
However, the Iranian authorities already exceeded the level established by the agreement in July, reaching 4.5 percent.
On the possibility of Iran carrying out 20 percent enrichment, Salehi said it was not on the cards currently as they had “sufficient” reserves of uranium enriched at that level.
He said in case the current reserves run out, Tehran could resume production as uranium was enriched up to both 5 and 20 percent at Fordow in the past.
These measures come a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the atomic agency to start injecting the UF6 gas into the 1,044 centrifuges present at the Fordow facility.
This is the fourth step by Iran that breaches the agreement. The earlier measures were taken in May, July, and September, apparently to pressure the other signatories (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) to counteract the sanctions imposed by Washington on Tehran.
The 2015 pact imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to prevent it from developing an atomic bomb in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
The unilateral withdrawal of the US and its re-imposition of sanctions, as well as the failure of the other signatories to counter them, have led to Iran gradually breaking the pact.
Iran has, however, assured that the steps taken until now were “reversible,” and that it would comply with the agreement as soon as the other parties meet its demands.