Iran installs half of planned new centrifuges at Fordow: IAEA report

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Iran has installed half the advanced uranium-enriching machines it said earlier this month it would quickly add to its Fordow site dug into a mountain but has not yet brought them online, the UN nuclear watchdog said in a report seen by Reuters.

Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency two weeks ago it would rapidly expand its enrichment capacity at Fordow by adding eight cascades, or clusters, of IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow within three to four weeks.

Within two days the IAEA had verified that two of the cascades had been installed. In a confidential report to member states on Friday the agency said that number had now doubled.

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“The Agency has verified that Iran has installed four of the aforementioned eight IR-6 cascades in Unit 1 at FFEP (Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant),” the report said, adding that the verification was carried out on Sunday.

“Iran has not specified to the Agency when it would start feeding any of the cascades in Unit 1 with UF6 or the planned enrichment level,” it added, referring to uranium hexafluoride gas, the feedstock for centrifuges.

Diplomats said the addition of the IR-6 machines was a response to a resolution against Iran by the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors on June 5 calling on Tehran to step up cooperation with the watchdog and reverse its recent barring of inspectors.

The United States announced new sanctions targeting Iran’s oil trade on Thursday, saying it was acting in response to “steps (by Iran) to further expand its nuclear program in ways that have no credible peaceful purpose.”

Iran is enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to the roughly 90 percent of weapons grade, at two sites: Fordow and an above-ground pilot plant at Natanz. At Fordow, it is currently using two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges to enrich to 60 percent from 20 percent.

The report also said Iran had carried out a process called passivation, which involves feeding UF6 into centrifuges in preparation for enrichment without accumulating enriched uranium, on three cascades of IR-2m centrifuges and three cascades of IR-4 machines at its underground Natanz plant.

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