Iran to Enrich Uranium to 60 Percent in Retaliation for Israeli Sabotage
Attack damaged numerous centrifuges
In a move that seems set to greatly complicate ongoing talks over the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, the Iranian government has announced it will install more new centrifuges, and will begin enriching uranium up to 60%, by far the highest they’ve ever attempted.
This seems destined to provoke a backlash from the West, and allegations that Iran is getting closer to the 90% enrichment level needed for weapons grade. This will be further pushed because Iran has no obvious use for 60% enriched uranium [except as pressure/bargaining chip], unlike its 20% enriched, which was used for medical isotopes.
From Iran’s perspective, the move is a response to this week’s sabotage at the enrichment site, which they are blaming on Israel. Iranian officials also warned the US on the latest incident, cautioning that sabotage and sanctions would never stop their legal program.
Deputy FM Abbas Araqchi has argued that Paragraph 36 of the JCPOA entitles Iran to take this action in the form of reprisal for what happened. Paragraph 36 indeed allows Iran to “cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA in whole or in part” over compliance issues from the other side.
This might be contested, as Israel isn’t a party to the JCPOA, and reprisals against them aren’t covered by the deal. It may be that they consider this a US sabotage by-proxy, and may not matter anyhow, since Iran has argued most of the parties are failing to meet their requirements.
Beyond 60% enrichment, which is a technical accomplishment, but otherwise of no obvious use, Iran also intends to install some 1,000 additional centrifuges at Natanz. These will be replacing those centrifuges damaged or broken in the sabotage incident. Iran says these centrifuges will have a 50% higher enrichment capacity than the original ones.