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Iran to begin 60% uranium enrichment after nuclear site incident

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By Parisa Hafezi

Iran said on Tuesday it will start enriching uranium to 60% purity, a move bringing the fissile material closer to levels suitable for a bomb, after accusing Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear installation.

The disclosure came soon before the resumption of talks in Vienna aimed at reviving Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, an accord Israel fiercely opposed, after former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned it three years ago.

A fissile purity of 90% is suitable for a nuclear bomb.

Announcing 60% enrichment, chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi also said Iran would activate 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz, a nuclear plant hit by an explosion on Sunday that Tehran called an act of sabotage by its arch-foe Israel.

However, an Iranian official told Reuters later that "60% enrichment will be in small quantity" only.

"From tonight, practical preparations for 60% enrichment will begin in Natanz; 60% uranium is used to make a variety of radiopharmaceuticals," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Iranian nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said it had been informed of Iran's decision.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Iran's announcement "provocative" and said the Biden administration was concerned, adding that it called into question Tehran's seriousness on nuclear talks.

Last week, Iran and the global powers held what they described as "constructive" talks to salvage the 2015 accord, which has unravelled as Iran has breached its limits on uranium enrichment since Trump re-imposed harsh sanctions on Tehran.

The deal had capped the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for centrifuges, at 3.67%, far below the 90% needed for bomb-grade material.

Iran in recent months has raised enrichment to 20% purity, a level where uranium is considered to be highly enriched and is a significant step towards weapons-grade. Three-five percent is broadly the level required to run civilian nuclear power plants.

The biggest obstacle to producing nuclear weapons is accumulating sufficient quantities of fissile material - either 90% enriched uranium, or plutonium - for the core of a bomb.

One of the central objectives of the 2015 nuclear containment deal was to extend the time Iran would need to do this, if it chose to, to a year from about 2-3 months.

Iran says it has never sought to obtain or develop nuclear weapons, and that it seeks nuclear technology for civilian purposes in the fields of medicine or energy.

Western intelligence services believe Iran had a clandestine nuclear weapons program that was mothballed in 2003, though arch-adversary Israel believes it continues in some form and sees Tehran's nuclear activity as an existential threat.

Iran's top diplomat said earlier on Tuesday that the blast in the underground Natanz plant that it blames on Israel was a "very bad gamble" that would boost Tehran's leverage in the talks to salvage the nuclear deal.

"I assure you that in the near future more advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges will be placed in the Natanz facility," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a news conference alongside his visiting Russian counterpart in Tehran.

The nuclear talks are due to resume on Thursday in Vienna.

Tehran has said the explosion at Natanz, which knocked out electricity in centrifuge production halls, was sabotage by Israel and vowed revenge for the incident, which appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war.

Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognize, has not formally commented on the matter.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said Iran must resume full compliance with curbs on its enrichment activity mandated by the deal, which won the lifting of all international sanctions against Tehran, before Washington can rejoin the pact.

© Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments

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Once again, the first thing I have to do is spell out things that shouldn't need to be repeated, but do because of persistent campaigns of disinformation and conspiracy theories that are enabled by the media.

The Natanz facility is frequently recertified by the foreign IAEA inspectors to be a CIVILIAN site.

The enriched nuclear material made in Natanz is itself frequently audited and confirmed by the foreign IAEA inspectors to be, down to the microgram, only being used for CIVILIAN purposes.

And as long as Iran continues to abide by the General Safeguards of the NNPT (which it has been doing for decades) and preserving the ability to turn control and access to the more energy efficient centrifuges and the work on bringing its capabilities to the point where it can domestically source fuel for the sort of reactors used to power ships without adding to climate, for about 5 years, in case the US finally, for the very first time, gets into compliance with the JCPOA, it isn't violating the terms of the JCPOA.

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Now, this is most definitely a response to the Israeli regime's attack on the CIVILIAN Natanz facility.

And it is a message directed at President Biden, informing him that Iran is willing and able to make the domestic political cost to Biden of not dropping the illegal economic war on Iran as high as what the Israeli regime and America's Party of War will make it if he does rejoin the JCPOA.

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The nuclear deal the US walked away from without cause was preventing this. Aggression is clearly not working.

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Tehran has said the explosion at Natanz, which knocked out electricity in centrifuge production halls, was sabotage by Israel and vowed revenge for the incident, which appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war.

Today, the Jerusalem Post confirmed this.

https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/incident-reported-in-iranian-natanz-nuclear-facility-664792

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Seems pretty easy to understand to me....

In 2016, Iran was in a multilateral agreement and complying with the provisions to not make weapons grade uranium…

In 2021, after Trump unilaterally pulled out of the agreement, Iran is making significant strides toward a nuclear weapon....

Were we safer in 2016 or now?

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Obama should have never allowed him and Kerry to be duped by the Mullahs, the man should have gone to Congress and come up with a bipartisan legislative bill that would have been binding, but he didn’t because he knew congress wasn’t going to start any negotiation conversations dealing with Iran, a country that we have no diplomatic relations with and here we are.

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Obama should have never allowed him and Kerry to be duped by the Mullahs, the man should have gone to Congress and come up with a bipartisan legislative bill that would have been binding, but he didn’t because he knew congress wasn’t going to start any negotiation conversations dealing with Iran, a country that we have no diplomatic relations with and here we are.

So, simple question - is Iran closer to getting a nuclear weapon and are we safer now or in 2016?

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Should be 90%.

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So, simple question - is Iran closer to getting a nuclear weapon and are we safer now or in 2016?

So you trust the crowd who chants ‘Death to America’ at every public gathering and calls Jews pigs? They are open about their hate - there is no reason to trust the regime and why would anyone expect them to honor a deal? You believe the IAEA? They are the ones who said their were WMD in Iraq. Come on man!

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Bass4funk: Obama should have never allowed him and Kerry to be duped by the Mullahs

Trump, on numerous occasions, certified that Iran was in compliance.

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Trump, on numerous occasions, certified that Iran was in compliance

Later when he stopped listening to the Dem and Kerry, he realized that wasn’t the case.

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WolfpackToday  12:04 pm JST

"So, simple question - is Iran closer to getting a nuclear weapon and are we safer now or in 2016?"

So you trust the crowd who chants ‘Death to America’ at every public gathering and calls Jews pigs? 

Either you don't understand a simple either ... or... question or you're trying to disingenuously weasel out of acknowledging that we are less safe after four years of the Trump administration with strawman arguments and generic waffle about those horrible Iranians. As you don't appear to be completely stupid I suspect the latter.

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bass4funk: Later when he stopped listening to the Dem and Kerry, he realized that wasn’t the case.

Trump was President for over a year, certifying every 3 months that Iran was in compliance, before he ended US participation. I suppose it's possible that Trump's advisors were the Dems and Kerry for his first year, but I'm going to bet that what's really going on here is that you're just making things up.

Time to wrap this one up?

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I kind of like his story.

It's funny to imagine that Trump, nearly a year and a half into his term, was having meetings with Democrats and John Kerry before he suddenly realized, "Holy crap! I've been talking to the wrong people!"

He can stick to that story if he wants. Or he say can say he had no idea about what was going on.

I'm happy with either one.

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