Iran produces first batch of 60% enriched uranium
Scientists have managed to produce the country’s first batch of 60-percent enriched uranium in Natanz days after a nuclear facility came under a terrorist attack, top officials say.
“I am proud to announce that at 00:40 last night ... young and pious Iranian scientists were able to obtain a 60% enriched uranium product,” Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf wrote in a Persian tweet on Friday, Press TV reported.
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi said access to any level of enrichment is now possible for Iran, adding despite the recent sabotage, enrichment continues at Natanz.
He said the 60-percent enrichment was completed in two days. “Production of 60-percent enriched uranium is currently 9 grams per hour,” Salehi said.
The 20-percent enrichment which was already underway at the facility continues in parallel with the 60-percent enrichment, he added.
The announcement came days after Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a plan to start 60-percent uranium enrichment, following what Iran called “nuclear terrorism” against Natanz.
The 60-percent uranium is used to make a variety of radiopharmaceuticals, which are hard to come by amid the most aggressive US sanctions ever on Iran.
"We congratulate the brave people of the Islamic Iran on this success; the will of the Iranian people is miraculous and will thwart any conspiracy," Qalibaf wrote.
The act of sabotage came a day after Iran began feeding gas to cascades of new, advanced centrifuges and unveiled 133 achievements to mark its national nuclear technology day.
Officials have said while the aim of the attack was apparently to limit Iran's nuclear capability, all the centrifuges that went out of order due to the incident were of the IR1 type that are being replaced with more advanced ones.
On Saturday, an order was given to feed gas to 164 all-Iranian IR6 centrifuges, with 10 SWU – separative work units that indicate the amount of separation done by an enrichment process.
The IR6 is the most sustainably efficient centrifuge Iran currently deploys, which will be mass-produced on an industrial level. The machine is able to produce 10 times more uranium hexafluoride (UF6) than IR1, Iran’s first-generation centrifuges.
Presiden Hassan Rouhani also gave the order to begin feeding gas to test a number of 30 IR5 centrifuges and 30 IR6s centrifuges, numbers that could grow if they are successful.
Moreover, mechanical tests began on the top-of-the-line IR9 centrifuge that has a separative capacity of 50 SWU.
Also in Natanz, a unit to assemble and evaluate advanced centrifuges was launched, where experts said more than half of all operations are currently industrialized.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said the perpetrators of the sabotage are wrong to think the act will undermine Iran’s position in Vienna negotiations which are held with the aim of lifting US sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
“Incidentally, this cowardly act will strengthen our position in the negotiations,” Zarif said on Monday.