Israel's defence minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran is building new underground facilities to purify uranium in advanced centrifuges
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The nightmare scenario of an Iranian nuclear bomb is back on the horizon as the hard line Islamist theocracy works on advanced uranium centrifuges at a new underground site, Israel has warned.

Benny Gantz, the Israeli defence minister, said that Iranian efforts to purify uranium at sites under construction near its Natanz nuclear plant exceeded UN figures from a March report.

‘Iran is making an effort to complete the manufacturing and installation of 1,000 additional advanced IR6 centrifuges in its nuclear facilities, including new facilities being built at underground sites abutting Natanz,’ Gantz said in a speech at Reichman University near Tel Aviv.

‘Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production, and operation of advanced centrifuges. 

‘It stands just a few weeks away from obtaining fissile material needed for a first bomb.’ 

Centrifuges are used to purify uranium for civilian projects or, at higher levels, to make fuel for a nuclear bomb. 

Israel's defence minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran is building new underground facilities to purify uranium in advanced centrifuges

Israel’s defence minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran is building new underground facilities to purify uranium in advanced centrifuges

Centrifuge machines at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility. The IAEA said in a March report that Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines, at new underground sites near Natanz

Centrifuge machines at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility. The IAEA said in a March report that Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines, at new underground sites near Natanz

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which said in a March report that Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which said in a March report that Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines

Pictured: Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi. Iran is working to purify uranium at new sites that could enable it to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of weeks, according to Israel

Pictured: Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi. Iran is working to purify uranium at new sites that could enable it to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of weeks, according to Israel

This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Iranian progress in the field is being watched keenly by world powers trying to resurrect a nuclear deal with Tehran, which denies having military designs.

A March 3 report by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said last month that Iran had set up a new underground Natanz workshop for making centrifuge parts, an apparent precaution against attacks.

In his remarks, Gantz alluded to Israel’s long-standing threat to take military action if it deems diplomacy is at a dead end to deny its arch-enemy the means to make nuclear weapons.

‘The price for tackling the Iranian challenge on a global or regional level is higher than it was a year ago and lower than it will be in a year,’ Gantz said. 

Grossi (on screen) speaks online during hearing of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence in Brussels. He said last month that Iran had set up a new underground Natanz workshop for making centrifuge parts, an apparent precaution against attacks

Grossi (on screen) speaks online during hearing of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence in Brussels. He said last month that Iran had set up a new underground Natanz workshop for making centrifuge parts, an apparent precaution against attacks

Pictured: A general view of Amir-Kabir dam (Karaj dam) in Karaj river in Chalus Road, Alborz province, northern Iran, where Iran's centrifuge facility is located

Pictured: A general view of Amir-Kabir dam (Karaj dam) in Karaj river in Chalus Road, Alborz province, northern Iran, where Iran’s centrifuge facility is located

‘The cost of such a future war, which we hope will not happen, can be prevented or reduced’ with tougher negotiations by world powers, he added.

Israel has targeted Iran’s centrifuge facility in Karaj in a sabotage attack, and the Natanz nuclear plant twice, according to Iran.

‘Unfortunately because of a terrorist operation that took place against Karaj, we were obliged to intensify security measures under which we moved an important part of the machines and transferred the rest to Natanz and Isfahan,’ said Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson for Iran’s atomic energy organization. 

Isfahan is the location of another Iranian nuclear facility. 

Meanwhile, talks between Iran and the EU have stalled after it failed to clarify questions about the presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites in Iran. 

Grossi said last week that he was ‘extremely concerned’ about Iran’s lack of cooperation as the EU seeks to unblock talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Talks between world powers and Iran have stalled since mid-March as negotiators seek to return to the landmark accord that curtailed the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

What is the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal?

In early May 2018, then-President Donald Trump announced that US would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement to place significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The deal was signed under former President Barak Obama’s administration in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1, which includes China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, as well as the United States.

The initial aim was to unwind Iran’s nuclear program to the point that if Tehran decided to pursue a nuclear weapon it would take at least one year to develop, giving world powers time to respond.

At the time, US intelligence officials estimated that without an agreement, Iran could produce enough nuclear material for a weapon in a few months. 

After President Joe Biden entered the Oval Office, Washington and Tehran have both said they would return to the original deal, but they disagree on the steps to get there.

Under its terms, Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for the US and other countries lifting sanctions, worth billions to Iran’s economy.

Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-related provisions of the JCPOA is verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency which recently said the country has not been transparent about the presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites in Iran.

By October 2023, the UN was supposed to lift missile restrictions under the initial agreement, whereas the EU was to terminate all remaining nuclear sanctions and the US was supposed to remove most sanctions.

But in retaliation for the US departure and for deadly attacks on prominent Iranians in 2020, including one by the United States, Iran has resumed some of its nuclear activities. 

As of May 2022, it is looking increasingly unlikely a deal can be finalised according to schedule.

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