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Iran's Nuclear Program Is Back To Pre-JCPOA Situation, Says Nuclear Chief

A grab from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, shows three versions of domestically-built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz,June 6, 2018. FILE photo

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Chief Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran will soon introduce a set of 30 modern IR-6 centrifuges within the next 2 or 3 weeks as the latest development in its nuclear program.

Salehi added that a new part of the heavy water reactor in Arak in central Iran will become operational within the next two weeks.

This comes while Iran is bound by its 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) not to employ more than 30 of this model of centrifuge until 2023.

Salehi said in an interview with Iran's state TV on Tuesday October 8 that Iran's nuclear program has "returned to pre-JCPOA situation" as it has increased the production of over 3.5 percent enriched uranium to 5 to 6 kilograms a day.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization had said in September that the IR-6 centrifuges is several times more powerful than the machines currently being used in Iran's nuclear program.

Ali Akbar Salehi (L) shakes hands with Acting Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Cornel Feruta during their meeting in Tehran, September 8, 2019
Ali Akbar Salehi (L) shakes hands with Acting Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Cornel Feruta during their meeting in Tehran, September 8, 2019

Kamalvandi said at the time that a series of 20 IR-4 and IR-6 have become operational and a series of 10 IR-5 centrifuges would be operational within two months as part of a Research and Development (R&D) project.

The United States pulled out of the JCPOA in 2018 and has demanded a more comprehensive deal that would also limit Iran's ballistic missile program and its interventions in the region.

Following the imposition of heavy sanctions by the United States, Iran has been warning the European signatories of the JCPOA that it will reduce its commitment to the deal as long as Europe fails to help Tehran to sell oil in the international markets and repatriate its revenues.

In three steps, Iran exceeded the 3.67% enrichment level and the 300 Kilogram stockpile of enriched Uranium allowed by the 2015 deal and employed modern centrifuges that will enable it to enriched more higher grade uranium.

The International Atomic Energy Agency announced in September that "Iran has installed or is installing 22 IR-4, one IR-5 and 30 IR-6 centrifuges."

Iran has also threatened to take the 4th step in reducing its nuclear commitments by November 6. Asked about what is going to happen in the 4th step, Salehi told reporters in Tehran that "it is too early to talk about this," adding that it "was not within his powers" to decide on the matter, although he stressed "We are ready to implement any decision that might be taken in this regard."

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on October 2 that "Iran will continue to reduce its nuclear commitments with utmost seriousness"

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned that the reduction of Tehran's nuclear commitments under the JCPOA "will increase tensions."

Other French officials had warned earlier that further reduction in Iran's commitment might put an end to the JCPOA as European parties might leave the deal altogether.

However, speaking at the Iranian Parliament on October 6, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed last week that Europe is not in position to leave the JCPOA. Zarif said that Europe has failed to fulfil its commitments in the nuclear deal with Iran, adding that "Europeans are not in a position to withdraw from the 2005 deal."