Vienna (Times Of Ocean)- Iran has started operating a new workshop at Natanz that will manufacture parts for uranium-enriching centrifuges using machines moved from its now-closed Karaj facility, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a report on Thursday seen by Reuters.
As a result of the new workshop, questions have been raised about Iran’s plans for manufacturing advanced centrifuges – machines that enrich uranium much faster than the first-generation centrifuges it is restricted to using for that purpose by its 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) with major powers.
Currently, it enriches with hundreds of centrifuges, some enriching up to 60% purity, which is close to the 90% required for weapons. That’s much higher than the 3.67% cap imposed by the deal and the 20% it had achieved before the deal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in its confidential report to member states that it had finished installing surveillance cameras at the site on April 12 and then removed the seals from the machines. They did not say where at Natanz that location was located.
The exact location of the workshop is of particular interest to Western powers and Israel because, according to Iran, Karaj was struck by a sabotage attack by Israel. Since then, Tehran has sought to strengthen security at such sites.
An underground enrichment plant on the sprawling Natanz site could offer some protection from airstrikes.
“Iran told the Agency on 13 April 2022 that the machines would start operating at the new workshop the same day,” the report said, without saying whether it had verified that the machines were running, suggesting it had not been provided access to the location since then.
Iran and the IAEA signed an agreement more than a year ago that prevents the agency from accessing the data collected by cameras and other monitoring equipment installed at some of Iran’s facilities, such as workshops that manufacture centrifuge parts.
Besides moving the Karaj parts to Natanz, Iran had also told the IAEA that the Karaj workshop would be moved to Isfahan, where IAEA cameras have been set up. Iran’s capacity to produce advanced centrifuge parts would increase dramatically if Isfahan went into operation.