Estimated reading time 2 minutes 2 Min

Iran enriching to up to 60% at Fordow, plans massive expansion, IAEA says

Iran is enriching uranium to up to 60% purity, close to weapons grade, underground for the first time at its Fordow plant, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday, adding that Iran is also planning a massive expansion of its enrichment capacity.

November 23, 2022
By Francois Murphy
23 November 2022

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Iran is enriching uranium to
up to 60% purity, close to weapons grade, underground for the
first time at its Fordow plant, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said
on Tuesday, adding that Iran is also planning a massive
expansion of its enrichment capacity.

Iran earlier on Tuesday said it had started to enrich
uranium to up to 60% at a second site, Fordow, having already
done so at its above-ground pilot plant at Natanz for more than
a year. At that pilot plant just two cascades, or clusters, of
advanced centrifuges are enriching to that level.

The latest move is in retaliation to last week’s resolution
by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of
Governors ordering Iran to cooperate with a years-long IAEA
investigation into the origin of uranium particles found at
three undeclared sites.

“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today said Iran had
started producing high enriched uranium – UF6 (uranium
hexafluoride) enriched up to 60% – using the existing two
cascades of IR-6 centrifuges in the Fordow Fuel Enrichment
Plant, in addition to such production that has taken place at
Natanz since April 2021,” the IAEA said in a statement.

It was summarising a confidential report to IAEA member
states seen by Reuters on various moves taken and planned by
Iran at enrichment plants at Fordow and Natanz.

Iran only has six cascades, or clusters, of IR-6 centrifuges
in operation at three plants at Fordow and Natanz. Diplomats say
the IR-6 is the most advanced model it is using on such a scale.

It plans to add 14 more IR-6 cascades at Fordow, six of
which will replace first-generation IR-1 machines, the IAEA
said. They will enrich to up to 5% or up to 20%, it added.

In the longer term, however, Iran plans a massive expansion
of its underground, commercial-scale Fuel Enrichment Plant at
Natanz, where it is also installing and bringing online more
cascades of advanced centrifuges.

“Iran continues to advance its enrichment activities at the
Fuel Enrichment Plant in Natanz and now plans to install a
second production building, capable of housing over 100
centrifuge cascades,” it said.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy
Editing by Peter Graff and Barbara Lewis)

More in Top Stories