In a move apparently aimed at protecting their assets from possible attacks, Tehran has set up its new workshop for making parts for centrifuges – machines that enrich uranium – underground at Natanz, UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi informed on Thursday.
Using machines from the facility at Karaj that is now closed – after suffering what Tehran says was a sabotage attack by Israel – the workshop can produce essential parts for the most efficient segment of Iran’s enrichment program: advanced centrifuges.
IAEA member states were informed two weeks ago by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran had moved the machines to an unspecified post within the sprawling Natanz which also hosts the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) where Tehran has thousands of centrifuges operating.
IAEA’s chief inspector, Massimo Aparo quoted Iranian officials as saying the workshop is ready to operate.
According to Grossi, the new workshop has been set up in one of the FEP’s halls at least three floors below ground to protect it from potential airstrikes.
FEP is the one facility where Iran is allowed to produce enriched uranium in line with the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers but only by using its far less efficient first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.
However, following the 2018 fallout caused by the US being pulled out of the 2015 deal by then-President Donald Trump, the deal has been eroding with Tehran breaching various restrictions on its nuclear activities the deal imposed, such as its stockpile of enriched material as well as the caps on the purity to which the uranium is enriched.
Iran is now also using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium at the FEP and at other sites not allowed with the deal using the vacuum created by the stalled talks on reviving the deal.