Uranium enrichment centrifuges at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility

Iran Set to Boost Uranium Enrichment Capacity by 3-4 Times

Thursday, 06/20/2024

Iran is set to triple or even quadruple its uranium enrichment capacity at Fordow, one of the country's most secretive nuclear facilities, according to reports published by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and the Washington Post on Wednesday.

The reports said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed new constructions at Fordow.

David Albright, a nuclear weapons expert and president of ISIS, told Iran International his technical report came in response to Iran's announcement that it's going to rapidly deploy 1400 advanced centrifuges.

The advancement, Albright said, came as a surprise

"People didn't know they had that many [centrifuges] ready to go... At the Fordow plant, the centrifuges are called the IR-6s and it's the most advanced centrifuge Iran operates," said Albright.

The 1,400 advanced machines would increase Fordow’s capacity by 360 percent, according to Albright. The plant is a deeply buried facility that is very hard to destroy.

The Washington Post also reported that the major expansion underway inside Fordow could soon triple the site’s production of enriched uranium, according to confidential documents and analysis by weapons experts.

Albright said that within a month, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for five nuclear weapons at Fordow.

The reports come amid growing concern about Iran’s nuclear program, which has grown rapidly in the last few years, while access has been limited and many UN inspectors have been kept out.

Last week, France, Germany, and Britain, original signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, condemned Tehran’s plan to further expand its uranium enrichment.

The United States has also threatened to respond to Iran if it further accelerates its uranium enrichment.

Iran's disclosure of its plans comes after the IAEA member states approved a formal reprimand on June 5 in response to its nuclear defiance. 

The IAEA Board of Governors resolution demanded Iran step up cooperation with the watchdog and reverse its recent barring of inspectors. 

On June 10, Iran's Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri downplayed the resolution censuring Iran, stating that issuing resolutions has no impact on Iran's "determination" to develop its nuclear projects.

Albright believes Iran's reaction to the resolution was "more aggressive behavior" with regards to "deploying these 1400 centrifuges."

Iran dismisses all concerns as politically motivated. It has officially informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its expansion and ‘upgrade’ plans at its primary enrichment plant near Natanz.

For two years now, Iran has been enriching uranium to 60% purity. The IAEA chief Rafael Grossi has stated that uranium of this purity has no obvious civilian use. It would be “a matter of weeks,” experts say, if Iran decided to go from 60 to 90 percent that is required for making a nuclear weapon.

Albright said Fordow is now viewed as a plant that could break out and produce several nuclear weapons within weeks, while previously it was never seen as a facility capable of achieving that.

The surprising nature of the plant's capability, and the fact that it's one of the most heavily protected nuclear facilities in Iran, are major concerns, he said.

"We're dealing with a brand new situation," said Albright.

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