Change in mode of uranium enrichment ‘technical,’ Iran says

April 23, 2021 - 19:44

TEHRAN – Iran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based international organizations has offered explanation about the country’s decision to change the mode by which it was producing uranium up to 60%, saying the decision was “technical.”

“There is no need for odd speculations. Change in the mode of 60% enrichment is a technical decision and was foreseen in the DIQ which was provided to the IAEA last week before the operation,” Kazem Gharibabadi said on Twitter on Friday.

He added, “In the new mode, two IR-6 & IR-4 cascades are coupled and with one time UF6 injection enriched up to 5%, two different products of 60 & 20% is accumulated. Enrichment operation became more efficient.”

The Iranian diplomat was commenting on press reports suggesting that Iran had changed the mode of producing 60% uranium enrichment.

On Friday, Reuters claimed that it had seen a report by the UN nuclear watchdog indicating that Iran has reduced the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to up to 60% purity at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

“On 21 April 2021, the Agency verified that Iran had changed the mode by which it was producing UF6 enriched up to 60% U-235 at PFEP,” the report said, according to Reuters, referring to the above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz and to uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is fed into centrifuges for enrichment.

Iran was now using one cascade, or cluster, of IR-6 centrifuges to enrich to up to 60% and feeding the tails, or depleted uranium, from that process into a cascade of IR-4 machines to enrich to up to 20%, the report said. The IR-4 cascade was previously being used to enrich to up to 60%.

Reuters claimed that the International Atomic Energy Agency report did not say why Iran had made the change or say how many centrifuges are in each cascade.

But Gharibabadi said the decision was made in accordance with technical issues and that there is no need for odd speculations.

Iran has recently started enriching uranium up to 60 percent after Natanz, a key uranium enrichment plant, suffered a blackout due to an act of sabotage that Iran blamed on Israel.

The Reuters report once again revived debate over the need to protect the confidentiality of the information that Iran had provided to the UN nuclear watchdog. In mid-February, Gharibabadi sent a letter to Rafael Grossi, the IAEA director-general, to inform him of Iran’s concerns about the leakage of information.

“Upon instructions received from my Government, I am writing to you regarding the urgent need for addressing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s concerns and observations on the protection of confidential information,” Garibabadi wrote to Grossi.

The Iranian ambassador highlighted the harmful consequences of leaking confidential information for Iran’s national security, urging the IAEA to take measures to protect classified information.

“Protection of national security, involving persons, property, society and the environment, from harmful consequences of sharing and releasing classified nuclear information is the overall objective of a Member State especially when cooperates with the Agency or any other States. Indeed, such information should be classified, protected and secured with appropriate measures by the IAEA,” Gharibabadi stated.

He added, “Protecting the confidential information, which is made available to the Agency by means of verification activities, is crucial to ensuring, inter-alia, the security of sensitive information. Therefore, public release of and-or access to classified safeguards information, especially regarding nuclear materials, activities and facilities of a Member State, is a very highly sensitive matter precisely related to the rights and interests of that State including on the subject of its national security.”

Gharibabadi noted that Iran considers protecting the confidentiality of information as a fundamental issue.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran acknowledges the fact that protection of confidential information has long been a fundamental issue in the deliberations about the Agency’s internal regulations. However, despite existing normative regulations, the leak of or unauthorized access to confidential information of the Agency in the last two decades, has been a critical challenge on the way of cooperation between the Agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Gharibabadi stated, noting, “During the past two decades, despite all progress in this field, Iran’s concerns about the lack of proper implementation of the confidentiality obligations by the Agency have been frequently notified, which are yet to be properly addressed.”

According to Gharibabadi, the responsibility for protecting confidential information lies with the IAEA.

“Undoubtedly, the Agency is responsible for the preservation and protection of the confidential information and Iran has the right to request the Agency for placing any supportive policies, plans and procedures or revising the existing ones in this regard. In fact, the credibility of the verification regime and the future prospect of cooperation between Member States and the Agency absolutely relies on the policy and ability of the Agency in protecting the confidentiality of safeguards information,” he continued.

Gharibabadi expressed concern about the leakage of the information that Iran provided to international inspectors in good-will.

“Disclosure of confidential information, especially regarding Iran’s nuclear activities and facilities, which has been provided to the Agency’s inspectors in good-will and as a transparency and confidence-building measure, is of serious concern,” the Iranian ambassador said.

He added, “A State may request the classification of a particular document as safeguards confidential, and that in no event would such a document be declassified without that State's consent. Through these documents, the Board also endorsed that the Agency Statute and the Staff Regulations and Rules impose on Agency current and former staff members an obligation not to disclose any confidential information known to them due to their official position. The Agency itself, as an international person with juridical personality, has international duties, the breach or non-observance of which may engage Agency responsibility.”

The Iranian ambassador underlined, “Providing the Agency with necessary information and monitoring and verification tools should not be done at the cost of compromising the rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran and obligations of the Agency for preservation and protection of sensitive and confidential information.”

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