The U.N. atomic watchdog said Friday that Iran continues to stay within the limitations set by the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, but reported its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water are growing and raised questions for the first time about Iran’s adherence to a key provision intended to limit the country’s use of advanced centrifuges.
In a confidential quarterly report distributed to member states and seen by The Associated Press, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has stayed within key limitations set in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, for uranium and heavy water stockpiles.
But while in past reports the IAEA said Iran’s research and development on enrichment “has been conducted using centrifuges within the limits defined in the JCPOA,” the Friday report instead changed the wording to say it “has been conducted using centrifuges specified in the JCPOA.” In a footnote, the agency said that “up to 33 IR-6 centrifuges have been installed” — which could be a possible violation of the JCPOA — and that “technical discussions in relation to the IR-6 centrifuges are ongoing.”
A centrifuge is a device that enriches uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas. Under the atomic accord, Iran has been limited to operating 5,060 older-model IR-1 centrifuges. Iranian officials say the IR-6 can enrich 10 times faster than an IR-1.
Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to test up to 30 of the IR-6 but only 8 1/2 years into the deal.
A senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t officially allowed to comment on the report, said the technical discussions were between the deal’s signatories and Iran, but would not elaborate. “It is being discussed, and we report the facts that we see,” the diplomat said.
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, said last month that his country had begun installing a chain of 20 IR-6 advanced centrifuges at its underground Natanz enrichment facility.