New Iran underground nuclear workshop
Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
JEDDAH: Iran has started making components for centrifuges to enrich uranium at a new workshop in its underground nuclear site at Natanz, the UN atomic watchdog said Thursday.
The new workshop replaces a facility in Karaj, near Tehran, after a sabotage attack there last year that was widely attributed to Israel.
Tehran has since been seeking to ensure greater security for such sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it had installed surveillance cameras at the new site this week, and removed the seals from the machines.
However, under an agreement with Iran struck more than a year ago, the IAEA does not have access to the data collected by cameras and other monitoring equipment at centrifuge workshops.
The new workshop raises questions about Iran’s plans for the manufacture of advanced centrifuges — machines that produce enriched uranium much faster than the first-generation machines it was restricted to using under its 2015 deal with major powers.
It is now enriching with hundreds of advanced centrifuges, some of them enriching to a purity of up to 60 percent, close to the 90 percent that is weapons grade. That is far above the 3.67 percent cap imposed by the deal and the 20 percent it had achieved before the deal.
Iran has also moved some of the Karaj workshop’s activities to another site at Isfahan, and the IAEA has set up cameras there. If Isfahan went into operation, it would increase Tehran’s capacity to produce advanced centrifuge parts.