Officially Iran announces the start of the 20% uranium enrichment process at the Fordo nuclear site

On Monday, the process of enriching uranium with a rate of 20% has started at the “Shahid Ali Mohammadi” enrichment complex in Fordo, according to “Fars” agency.

Last month, the Iranian parliament approved a law requiring the IAEA to raise uranium enrichment levels.

“The procedures for producing uranium enriched by 20 percent have started at the Shaheed Ali Mohammadi (Fordo)” facility, which is located underground.

Recently, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani gave the order to start enrichment at a rate of 20 percent, and hours ago, after taking preliminary measures such as informing the International Atomic Energy Agency, gas began to be pumped into centrifuges”.

Within a few hours, the first quantities of that will be produced.

The announcement comes days after the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that it had informed Iran of its intention to raise the enrichment rate to 20 percent at the Fordo facility, south of Tehran.

The measure is in line with a decision taken by the Shura Council in the Islamic Republic weeks ago, asking the government to “produce and store 120 kilograms of uranium enriched at 20 percent annually” in favor of “the peaceful needs of the national industry”.

This decision was issued days after the assassination of the prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in an operation that the Islamic Republic accused Israel of being behind.

The Iranian government did not support the parliament law, but confirmed that it would abide by it.

For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that its director-general will brief member states on Monday on developments in Iran after the Iranian government said it had resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent in an underground nuclear facility.

“Our inspectors are monitoring activities at Iran’s Fordo enrichment facility in Iran,” an agency spokesman said in an email. Based on their information, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is scheduled to present a report to IAEA member states later today.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today, Monday, that Iran’s resumption of 20 percent uranium enrichment aims to develop nuclear weapons, and that Israel will never allow Tehran to develop such weapons.

In a statement, Netanyahu added that Iran’s decision on enrichment could only be explained as an attempt “to continue implementing its intention to develop a nuclear weapons program”.

“Israel will never allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons,” he added.

For his part, the expert on foreign affairs in the Christian Democratic Party, to which German Chancellor Angela Merkel belongs, called for sanctions to be imposed on Iran over its plans to enrich uranium.

“The regime in Tehran has shown once again that it does not respect the word or the spirit of the (Vienna) nuclear agreement,” Juergen Hart said in statements to the “Neue Berliner Redaction Giselschaft” media group on Monday, that is why there is no escaping harsh sanctions against Iran. 

Russia and China should support this path, because the potential threat from Iran is directed against all countries.

The Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei announced on Monday, that the 20% uranium enrichment process had started today at the “Shahid Ali Mohammadi” enrichment complex in Fordo, according to Fars.

Last month, the Iranian parliament approved a law requiring the IAEA to raise uranium enrichment levels.

In the nuclear agreement that Iran concluded with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany in 2015, Iran committed itself to designing its nuclear program in a way that it could not manufacture atomic bombs, in order to lift the sanctions imposed on it in return. 

Since the United States withdrew from the agreement in May 2018, the nuclear deal has been ineffective.

For his part, a spokesman for the European Commission announced that the Union is awaiting a briefing by the International Atomic Energy Agency later on Monday, before issuing any reaction to Iran’s announcement of increasing the level of uranium enrichment.

Spokesman Peter Stano said that if Tehran had already begun enriching uranium by up to 20% – a percentage that far exceeds the maximum allowed in the 2015 nuclear deal, at 3.67% – then this would represent a “significant deviation” from the stipulated obligations in agreement.

He assured reporters that this step would have “serious repercussions on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons”.

He explained that the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency would update the member states on the latest developments related to the Iranian nuclear program.