Iran is set to unveil at least 50 new nuclear-related “products,” including new centrifuge systems and a heavy water power plant in 2020, boasted an Iranian official on Saturday.
Ali Asqar Zare’an, the assistant head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said in a ceremony near Tehran on Saturday that the country will announce “50 new achievements” on April 9, 2020 when Iran marks an annual National Nuclear Technology Day, “including new centrifuge systems and power plant [for] heavy water,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Zare’an also said that Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor “will have new activities on its agenda next year,” according to the report.
Heavy water helps cool reactors, producing plutonium as a byproduct that can be used in nuclear weapons.
Iran has ramped up its nuclear activities since US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year. The deal, negotiated between Tehran and world powers under the previous administration of Barack Obama, was designed to see Iran curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of powerful sanctions. The US has since reinstated punitive measures on Iran which have affected its struggling economy.
In response, Iran in recent months has been breaching the conditions of the 2015 pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by increasing its stockpiles of enriched uranium and increasing its enrichment capacity.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had breached another limit in its nuclear deal by stockpiling more heavy water than the accord allowed.
Tehran has indicated that it has taken several steps away from the accord. It now enriches uranium up to 4.5%, beyond the 3.67% allowed by the deal. Iranian officials say their stockpile of low-enriched uranium is over 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), above the accord’s 300-kilogram (661-pound) limit. It also began using advanced centrifuges prohibited by the agreement and resumed enrichment at its underground Fordo facility.
Tehran’s violations — all announced in advance and verified by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors — have been an attempt to pressure the other world powers involved, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia, to offer new economic incentives to offset the effect of the American sanctions.
Iran has previously suggested it would walk back those activities if it receives the economic incentives it needs.
On Friday, world powers pressured Iran to reverse its recent atomic activities but stopped short of deciding on whether to proceed with a move that could see the case brought before the UN Security Council and a “snapback” of sanctions that had been lifted under the accord.
Last week, the IAEA said it was waiting for information from Iran on the discovery of uranium particles at the Turquzabad facility near Tehran, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described to the UN in 2018 as a “secret atomic warehouse.”
Israel has alleged that material at the site came from an Iranian military program involving work on nuclear weapons and was subsequently cleared out. Iran denies pursuing nuclear weapons and says its program is peaceful.
The new head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, acknowledged that the matter is urgent because samples can degrade. His comment was in response to criticism that the IAEA dragged its feet in the investigation.
“The timely response to our questions is very important,” he said.