Iran tests new advanced centrifuge amid indirect US talks
Iran has started to test the prototype of an advanced centrifuge to accelerate uranium enrichment 50 times faster than the current ones permitted under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, according to state media.
Behrouz Kamalvardi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, told the Iranian Students News Agency that the homemade IR-9 centrifuges had a "production capability of 50 SWUs (Seperative Working Units of enriched uranium".
Under the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran was permitted only to enrich uranium using first-generation centrifuges at its Natanz plan.
Last month, the UN's nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran had begun using a new type of advanced centrifuge - the IR-4 - to enrich uranium. In January, Iran confirmed that it was enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity - well above the limits required by the 2015 deal.
Since the US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018 and imposed stinging sanctions, Iran has gradually violated its commitments including the development and production of advanced centrifuges to boost uranium enrichment.
The test of one its fastest centrifuges was announced as Iran marked its National Nuclear Technology Day. Kamalvardi told ISNA that the "133 achievement in the nuclear area" will be exhibited at the Saadabad Historical Complex in Tehran.
It also came as the US on Tuesday joined talks in Austria aimed at salvaging the JCPOA.
The EU is presiding over the talks in Vienna, which bring together the current members of the pact - Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK. The US delegation will partake in an indirectly, meeting in a different place with EU negotiators acting as mediators.
Diplomats and analysts say that both Iran and the US need to make some concessions to break the stalemate, such as Washington unfreezing Iranian oil assets and Tehran ceasing to enrich uranium beyond the deal's limits.
Tehran has always insisted its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, with a fatwa by the supreme leader banning the use of nuclear weapons.