Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi has announced that the factory producing rotors for centrifuges has come online, and will assist with Tehran’s plans to increase its uranium enrichment capacity to 190,000 SWUs.
Speaking to the Iranian TV channel IRIB on Wednesday, Salehi announced the completion of the rotor plant, which has the capacity to produce about 60 IR-6 centrifuge machines a day, and explained that the factory was built during nuclear talks with world powers, but never started up.
The announcement came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal from the pact.
Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The other signatories have been scrambling to save the accord, arguing it offers the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb.
Iran has said it will wait to see what the other powers can do, but has signalled it is ready to get its enrichment activities back on track.
It has regularly said its nuclear work is just for electricity generation and other peaceful projects.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement.
“Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but did not start it,” Salehi, said, according to state media.
“Of course, the [Supreme Leader] was completely informed and we gave him the necessary information at the time. And now that he has given the order this factory has started all of its work.”
The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day, he added.
Last month, Salehi announced that Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility.
Also this week, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization warned that it was preparing the groundwork for increasing enrichment if needed and if the negotiations with Europe to salvage the JCPOA failed.
The United States pulled out of the JCPOA in May, despite Iran’s continued compliance with the agreement, as attested to by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The US pullout prompted the deal’s other signatories, including Russia, China, and the European powers to scramble to try to salvage it.
During his visit to Europe earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised the other JCPOA signatories’ demonstration of firm political will to remain committed to the deal.
Last month, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi warned that Tehran could not rule out withdrawing from the JCPOA entirely if it is no longer in the country’s interests.
Following the pullout, the US promised to reimpose sanctions lifted under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal and to introduce new ones, and made threats to reduce Iranian crude oil exports “to zero.”
On Tuesday, Iran filed a lawsuit against the US in the International Court of Justice over Washington’s unilateral imposition of sanctions.