New York Post

Iran’s uranium upgrade

Enrich deal-breaker


Iran is escalating its uranium enrichment further by preparing to use advanced IR-6 centrifuge­s at its undergroun­d Fordow site that can more easily switch between enrichment levels, a United Nations nuclear watchdog report seen by Reuters on Monday showed.

The move is the latest of several steps that Iran had long threatened to take but held off carrying out until 30 of the 35 countries on the Internatio­nal Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors backed a resolution this month criticizin­g it for failing to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites.

With indirect US-Iran talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal long stalled, any further escalation in Tehran’s standoff with the West risks killing off hopes of reining in the Islamic republic’s nuclear advances and lifting US sanctions against it.

IAEA inspectors verified on Saturday that Iran was ready to feed uranium hexafluori­de (UF6) gas, the material centrifuge­s enrich, into the second of two cascades, or clusters, of IR-6 centrifuge­s installed at Fordow, a site dug into mountain, the confidenti­al IAEA report to member states said.

Iran informed the IAEA on Monday that passivatio­n of the cascade, a process that precedes enrichment and also involves feeding UF6 into the machines, had begun on Sunday.

The 166-machine cascade is the only one to have socalled “modified sub-headers,” which make it easier to switch to enriching to other purity levels.

Western diplomats have long pointed to that equipment as a source of concern since it could enable Iran to quickly enrich to higher levels. Iran has also not told the agency clearly what purity the cascade will enrich to after passivatio­n.

The country, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, had previously informed the IAEA that the two IR-6 cascades could be used to enrich to 5% or 20% purity.

At a different site, Iran is already enriching to up to 60%, close to the roughly 90% of weapons-grade and far above the 2015 deal’s cap of 3.67%.

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