Iran boasts of '133 nuclear achievements' after Vienna talks

Tehran is saying it will do whatever it wants regarding the enrichment of uranium.

A view of the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran December 23, 2019. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran December 23, 2019. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran says that it has unveiled 133 new nuclear achievements made by the country’s experts in different areas of the nuclear industry.
The claim came amid a call from President Hassan Rouhani in which he “unveiled the nuclear achievements in the provinces of Tehran, Markazi, Isfahan, Alborz and Qom to mark the 15th anniversary of National Nuclear Technology Day,” Iran’s Press TV said. The achievements included quantum, enrichment, heavy water and deuterium compounds, radiopharmaceuticals, lasers, and other astounding successes, the Islamic Republic says.  
“On Rouhani’s order, Iranian experts began injecting gas into a new generation of centrifuges at Natanz enrichment facility. Iran also began the mechanical testing of IR-9 centrifuges and launched an assembly line for its new generation of centrifuges,” Tehran says.
This is a major message to the US after the Vienna talks in which Tehran and Washington agreed to establish working groups. America could try to return to the 2015 JCPOA "Iran Deal" but Iran is driving a hard bargain. It has violated the deal through enrichment while the US walked away in 2018.  
“Iran showed to the world the peaceful nature of its nuclear program by signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with six world states – namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – in 2015,” it says. "The nuclear deal was also ratified in the form of a UN Security Council Resolution: 2231."
That Iran claims its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and not aimed at a bomb leads to questions about why the US needed the 2015 deal in the first place. The deal was supposed to block Iran from developing a bomb for some 15 years in exchange for sanctions relief and giving it the right to enrich uranium and stockpile some of it over those years. Iran was also freed from sanctions on its proxy activities, financing terror and building long range missiles.
The Trump administration reversed these policies, slapping on sanctions and designating the IRGC as terrorists, shutting off some Iranian funding for groups like Hezbollah. Critics of the Biden administration are concerned that the US is running back to embrace Iran and a deal; the administration says it isn’t.
 
IN THIS context, Iran is saying it will do whatever it wants regarding enrichment. It started gas supply to a new generation of centrifuges in Natanz.
“On the 15th anniversary of National Nuclear Technology Day, by order of the President, gasification of new generation centrifuge machines was carried out in Natanz enrichment complex and also IR-9 centrifuge mechanical test was started and the new generation centrifuge assembly center was put into operation,” Iran says.  
Fars News in Iran also had a front page story about these nuclear successes. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization, also spoke at the ceremony today, stating that despite all restrictions and sanctions, various projects in the field of nuclear science and technology have been pursued with vigor.  
Which achievements were unveiled and exploited? Design, construction and commissioning of the second phase of industrial production units of various compounds in Arak’s heavy water complex are one example, Fars says. In addition, there is the opening and operation of another facility in Arak. Six nuclear technology projects in the field of enrichment were created at Natanz. The facility was sabotaged last year and advanced centrifuges were allegedly damaged. 
In addition Iran says it has completed “design, manufacture and operation of 5 kW and 10 kW fiber laser… Inauguration of the National Center for Quantum Technologies in Tehran; Inauguration of the National Center for Isolation and Development of the Application of Stable Isotopes in Fordow and Qom… Acquisition of knowledge and production of 110 isotopic biomolecules required in the neonatal screening kit… Production of uranium hexafluoride semi-industrial enzymes; production of four radiopharmaceuticals and diagnostics, design and manufacture of a spin-test machine; the construction and assembly of the first prototype of the IR-9S and IR-9IB centrifuges; and the design and construction of 3D laser printing of metals were among the projects that were inaugurated today by the order of the President.” 
 
THIS IS quite a laundry list. “It is worth mentioning that these achievements were unveiled and exploited in Isfahan, Markazi, Alborz, Tehran and Qom provinces,” says Fars. This indicates the scale of the achievements. Some 164 IR-6 centrifuges are in operation with gas being injected into them, the article notes. Mechanical testing of IR-9 centrifuges is also taking place to test their separation capabilities.  According to Fars, the new generation centrifuge assembly center was also put into operation today. 
According to reports, a study was begun two years ago at the Arak heavy water reactor that has led to a second phase of industrial production. Salehi also boasted last year about this, although Iran said much of the recent work relates to medical issues.
For instance, there were advances in a center in Arak for a hospital that could treat people with radiation burns and radiation accidents. It was not clear why Iran needs this unless its nuclear program has many accidents. Fars says that there was progress on “construction and equipment to provide services to burn patients and possible radiation accidents, and the second phase of the hospital has been designed near the emergency department.” 
Regarding Natanz, the article notes that while work dates to 2015, last year there was a “terrorist act [and] part of the infrastructure of this center was destroyed.” However a new center for assembling centrifuges has now been completed. “With this measure, in which all the localization power of the country has been used, from now on, the production of new centrifuge machines will be done without any trouble and there will not be the slightest disturbance in this process,” Iran says.  
It appears that Tehran believes its advanced centrifuges could enrich uranium to higher amounts. For instance, the IR-4 centrifuges had been enriching to 5% while advanced centrifuges were then put to use enriching to 20% by March 2021. Iran has some 19,000 centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow. It was enriching uranium to 3.4% for its Tehran research reactor. The higher level of enrichment is not necessary. Iran was also alleged to be producing 5% low-enriched uranium for the Arak reactor.
In November 2020, Iran had only around 1.7 tons of uranium enriched to 4.5%. Under the 2015 deal, it was supposed to not exceed 300 kg. of 3.67% enriched uranium. Iran appears to be saying it can exceed these levels much more in the coming months or years.