Russia has agreed to help Iran upgrade its uranium-enriching centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief said.
Moscow has confirmed its “preparedness to cooperate and improve Iran’s centrifuges to produce stable isotopes,” Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Tuesday, according to the Iranian semi-state Fars news agency. Salehi was speaking after talks in Vienna with Sergey Kirienko, who heads Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation.
Salehi said Russia had undertaken to help “enhance” Iran’s centrifuges as part of July’s nuclear deal between the P5+1 world powers and Iran.
“Assistance to enhance the designing of our existing centrifuge machines in a way that they can produce stable isotopes is among the Russians’ undertakings (based on the July 14 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers),” Fars quoted Salehi saying. “They are among the most powerful and pioneering countries in the world in this field, and they have announced their preparedness to cooperate and improve Iran’s centrifuges to produce stable isotopes.”
Critics of the nuclear accord have highlighted, among other flaws, that it grants Iran the right to conduct ongoing R&D to improve its centrifuges, potentially enabling it enrich uranium more quickly toward a potential breakout to the bomb. The deal provides, for instance, that Iran will commence testing of the fast “IR-8 on single centrifuge machines and its intermediate cascades” as soon as the deal goes into effect, and will “commence testing of up to 30 IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges after eight and a half years.”
Iran has said that its IR-8 centrifuges are intended to enrich uranium 20 times faster than the IR-1 centrifuges it currently uses.
Salehi and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian lawmakers in April that Iran would advance research on the IR-8s as soon as the deal takes effect. According to a Fars report at the time, “Iran’s foreign minister and nuclear chief both told a closed-door session of the parliament… that the country would inject UF6 gas into the latest generation of its centrifuge machines as soon as a final nuclear deal goes into effect by Tehran and the six world powers.”
“The AEOI chief and the foreign minister presented hopeful remarks about nuclear technology R&D which, they said, have been agreed upon during the talks (with the six world powers), and informed that gas will be injected into IR8 (centrifuge machines) with the start of the (implementation of the) agreement,” Fars quoted Javad Karimi Qoddousi, a member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, as saying.
In his reported comments in Vienna on Tuesday, Salehi also said Russia would purchase Iran’s enriched uranium under the nuclear deal, and would supply Tehran with natural uranium, and that he has discussed the process by which this occurs with the Russian officials.