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Iran opens nuclear centrifuge factory for uranium

By
Susan McFarland
A Member of the IAEA inspection team examines the process inside an uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Iran, in 2014. File Photo by Kazem Ghane/IRNA NEWS AGENCY
A Member of the IAEA inspection team examines the process inside an uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Iran, in 2014. File Photo by Kazem Ghane/IRNA NEWS AGENCY | License Photo

July 18 (UPI) -- Iran's nuclear chief said Wednesday Tehran has built an advanced factory to make centrifuge rotors that enhance uranium enrichment capacity.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the project became operational because of a recent decree by Islamic leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei to reach its uranium enrichment capacity.

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Salehi said Iran was building the factory during negotiations that led to the 2015 nuclear agreement, but it was not operational.

The new factory will allow Iran to reach its limit of 190,000-SWU (separative work units) within 10 months.

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"The [leader] was totally informed and we provided him with the necessary information at the time. And now with his order, this factory has gone on stream," Salehi said.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Obama-era nuclear deal In May, ending months of speculation on how he planned to handle what he described as "one of the worst deals in history."

"The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen," Trump said, warning of an arms race in the Middle East.

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As part of the withdrawal, Trump also promised "the highest level of economic sanctions" against Iran -- including punishment for any nation that helps Iran with nuclear development.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal -- which also was signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and reduce its number of gas centrifuges.

When the United States left the deal, Iran vowed to boost enrichment capacity to put pressure on the remaining signatories to live up to the agreement.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran's nuclear activity is peaceful and is not geared toward creating weapons.

"Iran is a country that adheres to its commitments. And the U.S. is a country that has never adhered to its commitments," he said during a televised address.

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