- Iran reneged on two pledges last July in response to sanctions reimposed by the United States following its withdrawal from the deal.
- The Iranian Atomic Energy Agency has operated 20 AR4 centrifuges and 20 AR6 centrifuges, which can enrich high-quality uranium.
- The Trump administration is "very skeptical" of a French initiative to provide Tehran a $15 billion credit line, but did not rule out approval.
Iran said on Thursday it had begun operating in advanced and rapid uranium enrichment centrifuges, the latest step towards reducing its obligations under a 2015 nuclear deal with major powers. Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said 40 of those devices were now operational.
Enriched uranium can be used to make reactor fuel, as well as nuclear weapons. Iran reneged on two pledges last July in response to sanctions reimposed by the United States following its withdrawal from the deal. US President Donald Trump wants to force Iran to negotiate a new agreement that would place unspecified restrictions on its nuclear program and halt the development of its ballistic missiles. Iran has so far refused. The other parties to the agreement— Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia— have tried to save the deal, but US sanctions have caused the collapse of oil exports, the devaluation of the Iranian currency, and hyperinflation.
Mr. Kamalvandi announced the new measures on Saturday. He explained, at a press conference, that the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency has operated 20 AR4 centrifuges and 20 AR6 centrifuges, which can enrich high-quality uranium.
New centrifuges will be developed to meet the country’s needs, he said. He added that Iran’s steps are reversible, but this depends on the return of other partners to their obligations under the agreement. In the meantime, Iran will continue to allow IAEA inspectors to monitor the activities of its nuclear program.
On July 1, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had breached its 300-kilogram enrichment limit. Six days later, Iran began enriching uranium by 4.5 percent, so that it could produce fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, exceeding the maximum limit of 3.67 percent stipulated in the nuclear deal.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran would be allowed to operate no more than 5,060 older and less efficient AR1 centrifuges until 2026. It also allows Iran to continue research and development in a way that does not accumulate enriched uranium. The deal also allows for experimenting with more advanced AR6 and AR8 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium more quickly. After 2024, it can start increasing the experimentation, with up to 30 AR6 centrifuges.
The installation of advanced centrifuges would shorten the time needed to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb. Iranian officials have cautiously welcomed a French proposal to provide Iran with a $15 billion credit line to guarantee oil in return for full compliance with the nuclear deal. This would allow Tehran to acquire foreign currencies. A senior US official told Reuters news agency that the Trump administration was “very skeptical” of the French initiative, but did not rule out approval.