In yet another breach of the 2015 deal, Iran says it has resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment at Fordow site. Despite the current alleged enrichment level being far below the 90% required to manufacture an atomic weapon, Iran had previously attained the lethal level before the Nuclear Deal was signed.
Nuclear activity at Fordow facility has been banned for 15 years.
“A few hours ago the process to inject the gas began and the first UF6 enriched uranium product will be reached in a few more hours,” Iranian government’s spokesperson Ali Rabiei said on Monday.
Previously, Iran was enriching uranium up to 4.5%.
Iran’s move is a major breakaway from The JCPOA agreed in 2015 which includes regulations that Iran cannot enrich uranium past 3.67%. The deal also states that Iran cannot conduct any enrichment at Fordow, which is located beneath a mountain near the city of Qom.
Iran has come constantly violated the agreement ever since the U.S withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2019.
Iran has gone through with the current breach in light of a legislation approved by the parliament in December.
The hardline parliament’s bill, obligates the government to increase uranium enrichment to 20 percent and leaves the door open for more enrichment. In order to manufacture an atomic bomb, Iran needs to enrich uranium at 90%.
The controversial legislation was done in response to the murder of Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran has accused Israel of the assassination.
The development was made public by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, which is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. In a statement on Friday, the organization said it was notified on New Year’s Eve and was not given information on when the enrichment would occur.
“Iran has informed the Agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant,” the agency statement said.
“The Agency has inspectors present in Iran on a 24/7 basis and they have regular access to Fordow,” the IAEA statement said.
However, the legislation passed in the Iranian parliament last month also calls for expelling inspectors of the IAEA, increasing its uranium stockpile, building advanced centrifuges and revitalising the Arak heavy water reactor, among other things.
Iran’s latest breach will also pose a challenge for President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office this month. Biden has expressed interest in rejoining the agreement if Iran complies with the 2015 nuclear deal.