TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran will begin uranium enrichment at its Fordow plant and will install new nuclear equipment at its Natanz facility if it withdraws from a nuclear deal with major powers, said the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
The fate of the 2015 nuclear deal is unclear after the United States withdrew from it. The other signatory nations - Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France - are trying to salvage the accord, which imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in return for a lifting of some economic sanctions.
Iran has two vast enrichment sites, at Natanz and Fordow. Much of Natanz is deep underground and Fordow is buried inside a mountain, which is widely believed to protect them from aerial bombardment.
AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said in an interview published on Wednesday that new work would begin on the nuclear program on the orders of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
"Currently the Supreme Leader has ordered that the programs be carried out within the parameters of the nuclear deal,” Kamalvandi told the Young Journalists’ Club (YJC) in an interview.
"And when he gives the order we will announce the programs for operating outside of the nuclear deal for reviving Fordow,” he added.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the AEOI, announced last week that Iran had begun work on a facility to construct advanced centrifuges at Natanz.
Kamalvandi accused the United States and other Western countries of applying double standards by opposing Iran’s nuclear program, which he said was purely peaceful, while accepting the nuclear arms program of the occupying regime of Israel.
"The West doesn’t criticize the Zionist regime and have even helped them,” the YJC quoted Kamalvandi as saying. "Without the help of the West and America this regime could never have obtained nuclear weapons.”
Also, Iran will soon start re-building the Arak heavy water reactor once China finishes examining the last phase of the re-designing process, he said.
China and Iran "have had several contracts that are now operational and various steps of conceptual, basic and detailed designing are completed and after that the construction phase will begin,” Kamalvandi said.
"According to the timetable, we have fortunately made good progress, and the detailed stage has been completed on our part and delivered to the Chinese side, which, after their approval, will enter the next stage within 2 to 3 months, that is, we'll start the next phase of building and (installing the reactor’s) equipment,” he added.
Kamalvandi said the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would not affect the re-designing process and noted that the Chinese side has reaffirmed its commitment to the JCPOA, and the Arak reactor re-designing.
In April 2017, Iran and China signed the final version of a contract to redesign and modernize the Arak heavy water reactor in central Iran, an important step in line with the implementation of the JCPOA.
According to the agreement, China undertook to review the new design of the Arak reactor made by the Iranian experts and confirm its compliance with the international safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran is redesigning the 40-megawatt Arak research reactor to sharply cut its potential output of plutonium.