Iran to get first batch of 60% enriched uranium next week: ambassador

April 15, 2021 - 15:18

TEHRAN – Iran will accumulate the first batch of 60% enriched uranium within a week, a senior Iranian diplomat said on Tuesday after Iran announced that it is starting to enrich uranium to up to 60% purity in its most important step ever in the nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West.

The diplomat, Kazem Gharibabadi, who is Iran’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to international organizations in Vienna, also said that Iran is using more advanced centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, which suffered a blackout on Sunday due to sabotage Iranian officials blamed on Israel. 

“Enriching UF6 up to 60% will be done in two cascades of IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges in Natanz. Modification of the process just started and we expect to accumulate the product next week. This will improve significantly both the quality and quantity of radiopharmaceutical products,” Gharibabadi said on Twitter on Tuesday.

His tweet came hours after Iran announced that it will start 60% uranium enrichment for the first time ever. On Tuesday, as upon his arrival in Vienna for a new round of nuclear talks, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi announced that Iran has sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) informing the UN body that the Islamic Republic intends to start enriching uranium to up to 60% purity. He underlined that another 1,000 centrifuges with 50% more capacity will be added to the existing machines in Natanz, in addition to replacing the damaged ones.

Earlier this week, an incident occurred at the Natanz nuclear facility for the second time in less than a year amid heightened tensions between Iran and Israel. Iranian authorities said the incident was an act of sabotage that damaged the facility's electrical distribution grid and pointed the finger at Israel.

Following the sabotage, a batch of reports suggested that Iran’s ability to enrich uranium at Natanz was hurt for several months, a claim that was rejected by Iran.

“Enrichment in Natanz is not stopped; Iran will react including by planning to implement several technical measures which the Agency will be informed this week. Replacement process of the damaged centrifuges including with the same machines with more capacity has immediately begun,” Gharibabadi said on Twitter. 

Gharibabadi’s tweet about the start of 60% uranium enrichment elicited a response from his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Ulyanov, who said Iran has always been transparent about its nuclear measures. 

“As always Iran is very transparent in its deviations from JCPOA. Needless to say that we aren’t happy with this but we are used to think big. We need to focus not on current difficulties but on restoration of JCPOA. If we succeed, this and other problems will be settled soon,” Ulaynov said on Twitter, referring to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal by its acronym.

A few hours earlier, the Russian ambassador had said the next meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission will discuss the latest nuclear move by Iran. 

“The meeting of the Joint Commission of JCPOA is postponed for one day. It will take place in Vienna on April 15 in physical format. No doubt that in addition to previous issues the Commission will address the latest steps of Iran in the nuclear field, including 60% enrichment,” he added. 

The meeting was scheduled to be held on Wednesday but it was postponed due to a European diplomat contracting Covid-19. It will be held in a charged atmosphere. Iran said the sabotage at Natanz was aimed to derail the Vienna talks. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Israelis want to disrupt the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna. The chief Iranian diplomat said, “The Zionists want to take revenge on the Iranian people for their success in lifting the cruel sanctions, but we will not allow this and we will take revenge for these actions from the Zionists themselves.”

Underlining the need for Iranian people and officials to avoid falling in the “deceitful trap set by the Zionist regime,” Zarif reiterated that the political and military officials of the Zionist regime had explicitly stated that they would not allow progress in lifting the cruel sanctions and now they think that they will achieve their goal, but the Zionists will get their answer in further nuclear progress, according to state news IRNA.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also accused Israel of sabotaging Natanz, saying Iran’s move to raise the level of uranium enrichment was a response to the act. 

He said on Wednesday that Iran’s decision to enrich uranium to a purity of 60 percent and install IR6 centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant was a response to mischiefs against Iran, declaring that all Iran’s activities are peaceful and under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog.

“If the Zionists conspire against our nation, we will respond. This (60% uranium enrichment) is the first step,” Rouhani said during a cabinet meeting.

Gharibabadi writes to IAEA director-general

Gharibabadi also wrote a letter IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi, calling the sabotage at Natanz a “nuclear terrorism.”

“Such deliberate targeting of a highly sensitive safeguarded nuclear facility with high risk of potential release of radioactive material constitute irresponsible criminal nuclear terrorism,” Gharibabadi said, adding that Iran’s timely containment measures prevented what could have become a human and environmental catastrophe.

The Iranian diplomat pointed to Israeli threats against Iran issued by Chief of Staff of Israel’s Armed Forces Aviv Kochavi, who has said he had instructed his forces to prepare a number of operational plans to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. 

“Unfortunately, history of the Middle East [West Asia] is full of evidence of such vicious terrorist acts by Israeli regime under unbelievable eyes of the Agency and others wide shut. Israeli regime has twice conducted military strikes against the nuclear facilities of other states, namely Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. In fact, it is becoming accustomed to it mainly due to the combination of a number of shortcomings: lack of its compliance with its obligations under the relevant international agreements, lack of proper reaction to such acts on the part of the relevant international organizations, and deafening silence by the states proclaiming concerns about the safety and security of nuclear installations,” Gharibabadi noted.

He added, “These are proofs beyond any doubt that Israeli regime does not recognize any limits in its inhuman activities and is not duty bound to any international rules and regulations. These acts are in gross violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations which necessitate an appropriate response from the international community.”

The ambassador said the Islamic Republic of Iran looks forward to effective preventive measures being taken by the Agency and its peace-seeking member states against such ruthless remarks and actions. 

“The responsibility for any failure in this respect will lie solely with the Agency and others who indirectly render their support by closing their eyes on these reckless behaviors.  It is highly imperative that this matter be immediately attended to by the Agency to not only safeguard the nuclear installations against such acts or threats, but also the credibility of the Agency. Undoubtedly, if the peaceful uses of atomic energy are threatened, the confidence of the non-nuclear weapons state on the rule of law at the international level would be severely damaged,” he continued. 

Gharibabadi noted that Iran will take all necessary measures to protect and defend its citizens, interests and installations against any terrorist or sabotage acts. 

“Iran, as before, strongly warns against any adventurism by Israeli regime and will decisively respond to any threat or wrongful act perpetrated by this regime,” he warned.

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