Iran significantly increases production of enriched uranium

The twelve-fold increase is due to the recommissioning of an underground enrichment facility.

A SATELLITE view of Iran's Fordow nuclear plant. (photo credit: GOOGLE)
A SATELLITE view of Iran's Fordow nuclear plant.
(photo credit: GOOGLE)
Iran has increased its production of low-enriched uranium more than ten-fold after restarting an underground lab, the head of the country's nuclear program has said.
Tehran had been producing approximately 450 grams (one pound) of low-enriched uranium per day at its Natanz facility, but since recommissioning the Fordow nuclear facility last week, that has risen to at least 5.5 kg. daily.
Under the nuclear deal framework agreed between Iran and a group of world powers in 2015, there were to be no enrichment facilities in the Islamic state other than at Natanz, with Fordow converted to a "nuclear, physics and technology center."
But Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has told journalists: “I believe [that] in total, 5.5 kilograms is the daily volume of uranium enrichment in Natanz and Fordow.”
Tehran has strayed beyond the constraints of the accord since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal over a year ago.
Iran's enrichment capacity, enrichment level and stockpile was also set, under the accord, to be limited for a specific duration.
The Islamic Republic currently enriches uranium to up to 5%, far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. However, in an earlier statement Salehi said that Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium up to 20%. Increasing the rate of production reduces the so called 'breakout period' of time required to amass enough fissile material to construct a nuclear bomb.
The terms of the deal also include an arms embargo imposed by the United Nations until October 2020, a deadline which is said to already be of concern to the Trump administration.
Given the current state of relations between Iran and world powers, it is questionable whether the UN would allow the ban to be lifted come the deadline. But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced ambitions to extend the deal, telling supporters: “by continuing the nuclear deal, we will reach a huge political, defensive and security goal.”
Speaking on a provincial tour ahead of planned parliamentary elections in February, Rouhani added: "If we save the nuclear deal, Iran’s arms embargo will be lifted and we can buy weapons or sell our weapons to the world. This is one of the deal’s significant impacts.”