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Iran steps up underground uranium enrichment, IAEA report says

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Iran steps up underground uranium enrichment, IAEA report says

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Iran is pressing ahead with its rollout of an upgrade to its advanced uranium enrichment programme, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog seen by Reuters on Monday (Aug 29) showed, even as the West awaits Iran's response on salvaging its 2015 nuclear deal.

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The first of three cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-6 centrifuges recently installed at the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz is now enriching, the report said, the latest underground site at which the advanced machines have come onstream.

Diplomats say the IR-6 is its most advanced model, far more efficient than the first-generation IR-1 - the only one the deal lets it enrich with.

For more than a year Iran has been using IR-6 centrifuges to enrich uranium to up to 60 per cent purity, close to weapons-grade, at an above-ground plant at Natanz.

Recently it has expanded its enrichment with IR-6 machines at other sites. Last month a second IR-6 cascade at Fordow, a site buried inside a mountain, started enriching to up to 20 per cent.

In the confidential report to UN member states, the watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote: "On 28 August 2022, the Agency verified at FEP that Iran was feeding UF6 enriched up to 2 per cent U-235 into the IR-6 cascade ... for the production of UF6 enriched up to 5 per cent U-235."

Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) is the gas centrifuges enrich.

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