Iran claims UN watchdog inspector made mistake in report on centrifuge change

Country’s atomic agency says it has provided ‘explanations’ about altered configuration of devices and the matter has been resolved

Centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, November 5, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
Centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, November 5, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said a UN nuclear watchdog inspector was mistaken about covert changes to one of its uranium enrichment clusters and said the issue has now been resolved, state media reported Thursday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had substantially modified an interconnection between two centrifuge clusters enriching uranium to up to 60 percent at its Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP).

In a confidential report seen by AFP on Wednesday, it said this had been done without declaring it to the IAEA.

“An agency inspector inadvertently reported that Iran had made changes in the operating procedure at the enrichment site… that it had not announced before,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi was quoted as saying late Wednesday by IRNA news agency.

Tehran provided “explanations” to the inspectors and “the inspector in question realized his mistake,” he said. “After coordination with the agency’s secretariat, the matter was resolved.”

The IAEA said that during an unannounced Fordo inspection on January 21, it found that “two IR-6 centrifuge cascades… were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran to the agency.”

Since late last year, the two cascades have been used to produce uranium enriched to up to 60%, the report to member states added.

The IAEA did not specify the kind of changes made to the interconnection between the cascades.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi expressed concern that Iran had “implemented a substantial change in the design information of FFEP in relation to the production of high enriched uranium without informing the Agency in advance.”

However, IRNA quoted Kamalvandi as saying: “If Mr Grossi said this, I believe that his information has not been updated,” adding that Iran’s atomic agency has sent a letter in “response to the agency’s previous letter in this regard.”

Last week, Grossi told European Parliament lawmakers Iran had “amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons — not one at this point.”

Speaking about Iran’s recent atomic activities, including enriching uranium well beyond the limits of the landmark 2015 deal to curb its nuclear capabilities — Grossi said Tehran’s trajectory “is certainly not a good one.”

The deal with world powers, known as the JCPOA, collapsed after the United States withdrew from it in 2018 under former president Donald Trump.

Negotiations that started in April 2021 to revive the agreement have since stalled.

Iran said in November it had begun producing uranium enriched to 60% at Fordo, an underground facility that reopened three years ago after the breakdown of the JCPOA.

Most Popular
read more: