Iran plans 20% uranium enrichment “as soon as possible”

Israel, which has its own undeclared nuclear weapons program, feared Tehran was building a bomb. officials to suspect it had a military purpose when they exposed the site publicly in 2009. Tehran also accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that night, killing all 176 people on board. troops in Iraq. Iran plans 20% uranium enrichment “as soon as possible”

January 2, 2021 / 8:10 AM
/ AP

Iran said Saturday it plans to enrich uranium up to 20% at its underground Fordo nuclear facility “as soon as possible,” pushing its program a technical step away from weapons-grade levels as it increases pressure on the West over the tattered atomic deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged Iran had informed its inspectors of the decision by a letter after news leaked overnight Friday. It is about the size of a football field, large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges, but small and hardened enough to lead U.S. As of now, Iran is enriching uranium up to 4.5%, in violation of the accord’s limit of 3.67%. Since the deal’s collapse, Iran has resumed enrichment at Fordo, near the Shiite holy city of Qom, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Tehran. Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful. That attack later saw Iran retaliate by launching a ballistic missile strike injuring dozens of U.S. in the waning days of the administration of President Donald Trump, who unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal in 2018. Read: Former hostage of Iran wants Biden to make prisoner release a priorityThat set in motion an escalating series of incidents capped by a U.S. Under Iran’s former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tehran began 20% enrichment. We are ready for this and will produce (20% enriched uranium) as soon as possible.” Iran’s decision comes after its parliament passed a bill, later approved by a constitutional watchdog, aimed at hiking enrichment to pressure Europe into providing sanctions relief. The accord also called for Fordo to be turned into a research-and-development facility. “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 … The move comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. As the anniversary approached, the U.S. “It should be done under IAEA supervision,” Salehi added. Even Ali Akbar Salehi, the U.S.-educated head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, offered a military analogy to describe his agency’s readiness to take the next step. Experts say Iran now has enough low-enriched uranium stockpiled for at least two nuclear weapons, if it chose to pursue them. Tehran denied being involved. Israel, which under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued to criticize Iran’s nuclear program, offered no immediate comment Saturday. “The commander should command and we shoot. Iran’s decision to begin enriching to 20% a decade ago nearly brought an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities, tensions that only abated with the 2015 atomic deal. After the discovery of Fordo, the U.S. drone striking Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last year. has sent B-52 bombers flying over the region and sent a nuclear-powered submarine into the Persian Gulf. No one has claimed responsibility for the mining, though it comes after a series of similar attacks in 2019 that the U.S. up to 20 percent at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant,” the IAEA said in a statement. A resumption of 20% enrichment could see that brinksmanship return. Iran’s announcement coincides with the anniversary of the U.S. It also serves as pressure ahead of the inauguration of U.S. worked on so-called “bunker buster” bombs designed to strike such facilities. The IAEA added Iran did not say when it planned to boost enrichment, though the agency “has inspectors present in Iran on a 24/7 basis and they have regular access to Fordo.” The parliamentary bill also called on Iran to expel those inspectors, though it appears Tehran still hasn’t decided to take that step. President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he is willing to re-enter the nuclear deal. On Thursday, sailors discovered a limpet mine on a tanker in the Persian Gulf off Iraq near the Iranian border as it prepared to transfer fuel to another tanker owned by a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In November, an Iranian scientist who founded the country’s military nuclear program two decades earlier was killed in an attack Tehran blames on Israel. 
First published on January 2, 2021 / 8:10 AM “We are like soldiers and our fingers are on the triggers,” Salehi told Iranian state television. Shielded by the mountains, Fordo is ringed by anti-aircraft guns and other fortifications. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad a year ago, an anniversary coming Sunday that has American officials now worried about possible retaliation by Iran. As Israel threatened at one point to bomb Iranian nuclear sites like Fordo, U.S. The 2015 deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. officials reportedly showed them a video of a bunker-buster bomb destroying a mock-up of Fordo in America’s southwestern desert. Salehi said Iran would need to switch out natural uranium in centrifuges at Fordo for material already enriched to 4% to begin the process of going to 20%. Navy blamed on Iran. Iran separately has begun construction on a new site at Fordo, according to satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press in December.