Iran has set up centrifuge parts workshop underground at Natanz plant, watchdog says

Tehran moved uranium-enriching machines to a new facility after a sabotage attack at Karaj base

The IAEA recently installed surveillance cameras at the new centrifuge parts workshop in Natanz, central Iran. Getty Images
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Iran has set up a new workshop for making centrifuge parts underground at its fuel enrichment plant at the central city of Natanz, the chief of the UN's nuclear watchdog said on Thursday.

International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Grossi said member states had been told that uranium-enriching machines from a now-closed workshop at Karaj, near Tehran, had been moved to a site at Natanz.

The Karaj facility was hit by an apparent sabotage attack that Iran blames on Israel.

The IAEA recently completed installing surveillance cameras at the new site and removed the seals from the machines to produce centrifuge components.

Iran and the IAEA have been trying to resolve a series of issues since the collapse of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. These include regaining access to footage from surveillance cameras at atomic sites.

Mr Grossi says the watchdog is still trying to clarify answers from Tehran on questions involving traces of human-made enriched uranium discovered at three sites in the country.

He said Iran’s ability to enrich uranium since the collapse of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had grown, as it now uses more advanced centrifuges.

“They are transferring the centrifuge producing capacity to a place where they feel they are more protected,” Mr Grossi said.

Major world powers have been negotiating in Vienna to revive the 2015 JCPOA to rein in Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The agreement started to unravel in 2018 when Donald Trump, US president at the time, left the deal and re-instated sanctions, leading Iran to step up its nuclear programme again.

Negotiations to return to the JCPOA started early last year. Negotiators say they are close to a conclusion, but have not finalised all points.

Updated: April 28, 2022, 3:32 PM