Tampa Bay Times

Equipment steps up nuclear abilities

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Iran said Saturday it has begun mechanical tests on its newest advanced nuclear centrifuge, even as the five world powers that remain in a foundering 2015 nuclear deal with Iran attempt to bring the U.S. back into the agreement.

Iran’s IR-9 centrifuge, when operationa­l, would have the ability to separate uranium isotopes more quickly than the current centrifuge­s being used, thereby enriching uranium at a faster pace.

The IR-9’s output is 50 times quicker than the first Iranian centrifuge, the IR-1.

Since January, Iran has begun enriching uranium at up to 20 percent purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels, though Iran’s leadership insists the country has no desire to develop a nuclear weapon.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear accord in 2018, accusing Iran of failing to live up to the agreement.

Iran responded by intensifyi­ng its enrichment of uranium and building centrifuge­s in plain violation of the accord.

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