Iran resumes uranium enrichment in new step back from nuclear deal

Published November 8, 2019
Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Kazem Gharib Abadi waits for the start of a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on November 7. — Reuters
Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Kazem Gharib Abadi waits for the start of a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on November 7. — Reuters

TEHRAN: Iran resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow plant south of Tehran on Thursday in a new step back from its commitments under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, raising alarm from Western powers.

Engineers began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into the plant’s mothballed enrichment centrifuges in “the first minutes of Thursday”, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organi­sation said.

The suspension of uranium enrichment at the long-secret plant was one of the restrictions on its nuclear programme Iran had agreed to in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Iran’s announcement that it would resume enrichment at the Fordow plant from midnight (2030 GMT Wednesday) had drawn a chorus of concern from the remaining parties to the troubled agreement.

Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have been trying to salvage the hard-won deal since Washington abandoned it in May last year and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions.

The resumption of enrichment at Fordow is Iran’s fourth step away from the agreement.

The United States called for “serious steps” to be taken in response to the move.

“Iran’s expansion of proliferation-sensitive activities raises concerns that Iran is positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “It is now time for all nations to reject this regime’s nuclear extortion and take serious steps to increase pressure.”

Uranium enrichment is the sensitive process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants but also, in highly extended form, the fissile core for a warhead.

Iran is now enriching uranium to 4.5 per cent, exceeding the 3.67 per cent limit set by the 2015 deal but less than the 20 per cent level it had previously operated to and far less than the 90 per cent level required for a warhead.

Iran has always denied any military dimension to its nuclear programme.

It has been at pains to emphasise that all of the steps it has taken are transparent and swiftly reversible if the remaining parties to the agreement find a way to get around US sanctions.

“All these activities have been carried out under the supervision of the Inter­national Atomic Energy Agency,” the Iranian nuclear organisation said.

Tehran said on Thursday that it had withdrawn the credentials of one IAEA inspector last week after she triggered an alarm at the gate to Iran’s other enrichment plant at Natanz, raising suspicion she was carrying a “suspect product”.

It did not specify what the product was or whether it had actually been found in the inspector’s possession.

After a special meeting on Iran held at the watchdog’s headquarters in Vienna, the EU said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” by what took place, but understood “that the incident was resolved”.

The IAEA meanwhile complained that the inspector had last week been briefly prevented from leaving Iran.

Cornel Feruta, the watchdog’s Acting Director General, “informed the ... Board of Governors that an Agency inspector was last week temporarily prevented from leaving Iran”, a statement by the agency said.

“Preventing an inspector from leaving a country, particularly when instructed to do so by the Agency, is not acceptable and should not occur,” Feruta said.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019

Opinion

The ECI headache
08 May 2021

The ECI headache

The ECI sat mute while BJP held huge rallies without following SOPs.
Engaging the enemy
08 May 2021

Engaging the enemy

The ghost of the Musharraf formula has started to haunt the current backchannel process.
Will OIC confront France?
Updated 08 May 2021

Will OIC confront France?

For Pakistan to keep its GSP-Plus status it will have to show the EU that it treats its blasphemy accused fairly.
Standing by Kashmir
Updated 07 May 2021

Standing by Kashmir

A comprehensive failure of governance is always a comprehensive moral failure of the governors.

Editorial

Updated 08 May 2021

Delayed poll debate

THE debate on electoral reforms is going nowhere. Even though the major political parties say reforms are critical,...
08 May 2021

Reducing deficit

THE numbers show that the government has managed to arrest growth in fiscal deficit — the difference between the...
08 May 2021

Rise in dog bites

ON Wednesday, an unusually high number of dog-bite cases were reported in Larkana, when 19 people — the majority ...
Reprimanding envoys
Updated 07 May 2021

Reprimanding envoys

The prime minister should have engaged with honest and respectable officers to identify how solutions can be found.
07 May 2021

Foreign funding case

THE foreign funding case against the PTI has become a never-ending tale. It has been dragging on for years and after...
07 May 2021

Water woes

IRRIGATION experts have voiced concern over the decline of freshwater flow through Kotri barrage, which has led to...