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Site Meant for Research Has Been Enriching Uranium: UN Watchdog

It looks like Fordo underground facility is in violation of 2015 nuclear deal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 11, 2019 11:33 AM CST
UN Watchdog: Iran Enriching Uranium at Underground Site
In this photo, President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a public gathering in the city of Rafsanjan in Iran's southwest Kerman province on Monday.   (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)

(Newser) – The United Nations' nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran is now enriching uranium at its underground Fordo facility, a move prohibited by the 2015 nuclear deal. That's according to a confidential quarterly report that was distributed to member states and seen by the AP on Monday. Iran invited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to Fordo to see its work. The IAEA said Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. It also said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5%, above the 3.67% allowed. The agency says as of Nov. 3, Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium was 372.3 kilograms (820.78 pounds) compared with 241.6 kilograms reported on Aug. 19, and past the 202.8 kilogram limit.

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Ali Akbar Salehi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran attributed the rise to the work at Fordo, a long-secret facility the West feared could be used to divert and rapidly enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels. Salehi says the country is now producing at least 5.5 kilograms daily (12 pounds), compared to what Tehran had been producing: about 450 grams (1 pound) of low-enriched uranium per day. The increase in enrichment comes from the inclusion of over 1,000 centrifuges at Fordo. Salehi suggested the figure could go as high at 6 kilograms (13 pounds) a day. Iran resumed uranium enrichment at Fordo as it also broke other limits imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal that began to unravel after President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord over a year ago. Under the nuclear accord, Fordo was supposed to be a research lab and not used for uranium enrichment.

(Read more Iran stories.)

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