U.S. Calls Iran's Latest Nuclear Deal Breach 'A Big Step in Wrong Direction'

Statement comes after Tehran announced it would start injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment facility

Hassan Rohani speaks in a ceremony to inaugurate Azadi Innovation Factory in Pardis technology park in west of Tehran, Iran, November 5, 2019.
AP

Iran’s expansion of uranium enrichment activities in defiance of key nuclear commitments is “a big step in the wrong direction,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, after Tehran announced it would start injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment facility.

“We fully support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in conducting its independent verification role in Iran and look to the IAEA to report on any developments,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Earlier Tuesday Iran's president announced that Tehran will begin injecting uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges, the latest step away from its nuclear deal with world powers since President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord over a year ago.

Iran's Fordow nuclear enrichment site, near the city of Qom, 156 kilometers southwest of Tehran, 2009.
REUTERS/DigitalGlobe/Handout

The development is significant as the centrifuges previously spun empty, without gas injection, under the landmark 2015 nuclear accord. It also increases pressure on European nations that remain in the accord, which at this point has all but collapsed.

In his announcement, President Hassan Rohani did not say whether the centrifuges, which are at its nuclear facility in Fordow, would be used to produce enriched uranium.

The centrifuges would be injected with the uranium gas as of Wednesday, Rohani said.

An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 9, 2019.
Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

His remarks, carried live on Iranian state television, came a day after Tehran's nuclear program chief said the country had doubled the number of advanced IR-6 centrifuges in operation.doyub

Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said Iran had informed the agency over "the start of injecting UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) into centrifuges at Fordow on Wednesday."

The deal bans nuclear material from Fordow and by injecting UF6 into centrifuges, the facility will become an active nuclear site rather than a research plant as permitted under the pact.

"The IAEA was requested to send its inspectors to monitor the process," Gharibabadi said, quoted by state television. The IAEA monitors Tehran's compliance with the deal.

Rohani stressed the steps taken so far, including going beyond the deal's enrichment and stockpile limitations, could be reversed if Europe offers a way for it to avoid U.S. sanctions choking off its crude oil sales abroad.