Iran Still Denying Inspectors Access to Centrifuge Workshop, Says UN Watchdog

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Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi and chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran during a visit to the Bushehr nuclear power plant, last month.
Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi and chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran during a visit to the Bushehr nuclear power plant, last month.Credit: Iranian Presidency / AFP

The UN's nuclear watchdog reported Wednesday that it has still not received access to reinstall surveillance cameras at the TESA Karaj centrifuge-parts workshop in Iran, which is essential to reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have also continued to be "subjected to excessively invasive physical searches by security officials at nuclear facilities in Iran," a second quarterly report issued on Wednesday said, after diplomats said such incidents had happened at the Natanz nuclear site.

The Karaj workshop makes parts for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, and was targeted by apparent sabotage in June – an attack Iran claims Israel was behind – in which one of four International Atomic Energy Agency cameras there was destroyed and another badly damaged, after which Iran removed them.

As part of joint statement between Iran and the IAEA in September, the workshop was one of several sites to which Iran agreed to grant  inspectors access to in order to repair monitoring equipment.

Diplomats are concerned that the centrifuge parts could be diverted into a weapons program. Tehran has produced parts for at least 170 advanced centrifuges since late August, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Tehran is set to renew nuclear talks with world powers this month, after the 2015 accord to curb its nuclear program collapsed following the U.S.’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018.

The IAEA also says it believes Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in breach of a 2015 accord with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency told member nations in its confidential quarterly report Wednesday that Iran has an estimated stock of 17.7 kilograms (39 pounds) of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity, an increase of almost 8 kilograms since August.

Such highly enriched uranium can be easily refined to make atomic weapons, which is why world powers have sought to contain Tehran’s nuclear program.

Earlier this month, Iran’s atomic agency said that its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium had reached over 210 kilograms (463 pounds). Under the historic 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the World Powers, Iran was not meant to enrich uranium above 3.67 percent. Enriched uranium above 90 percent can be used for nuclear weapons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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