Iran Speeds Up Nuclear Development Process in Response to US Sanctions

Photo by Kobi Richter/TPS on 19 April, 2020
By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 2 August, 2022

Jerusalem, 2 August, 2022 (TPS) — Iran has begun feeding gas into hundreds of IR1 and IR6 advanced new-generation centrifuges as a response to the latest round of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the country’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian announced on Tuesday.

The Americans “should not think that they can get concessions at the negotiating table via such actions and they should stop excessive demands,” he said, warning that “Iran’s hands are not tied if Washington chooses to continue this path.”

The US on Monday leveled sanctions against six entities facilitating illicit transactions related to Iranian petroleum as well as petroleum and petrochemical products, key sources of revenue for the Iranian government.

“Until Iran is ready to return to full implementation of the JCPOA, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to target exports of petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products from Iran,” the State Department stated.

The streaming of gas into a new array of centrifuges is the latest in a series of actions Iran has taken to advance its nuclear program.

A gas centrifuge performs isotope separation of uranium-235 (235U) from uranium-238 (238U). High degrees of separation of these isotopes rely on using many individual centrifuges arranged in a cascade, which achieve successively higher concentrations. This process yields higher concentrations of uranium-235, which can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), such as uranium-235 that is enriched to a level of 20% or more, is used in the secondary stage as an ignitor for the fusion fuel in a thermonuclear bomb.

Reuters reported last month that Iran has escalated its enrichment with adaptable centrifuges at the Fordow plant. The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned in a report that the modified centrifuges mean Iran could switch more quickly and easily to enriching to higher purity levels.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is permitted to enrich uranium only up to 3.67% purity. The centrifuges in Fordow are reportedly enriching up to 5%. At other facilities, Iran is enriching uranium to 20%.

Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz warned in May of the significant progress Iran is making in its nuclear program, saying that “Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production, and operation of advanced centrifuges. It stands just a few weeks away from accumulating fissile material that will be sufficient for a first bomb, holds 60 kg of enriched material at 60%, produces metallic uranium at the enrichment level of 20%, and prevents the IAEA from accessing its facilities.”

Gantz updated in April that Iran has 40 kg of enriched material at 60%, meaning it has enlarged its stockpile by 30% in just a month’s time.

Iran is creating weapons-grade materials by enriching uranium at 60%. Only countries developing bombs reach this high level. There is no civilian use for uranium enriched to 60%. Uranium enriched to 60% can quickly be enriched further to 90%, the level required to build an atomic bomb.

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