TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran said Saturday it is now enriching uranium to five percent, after a series of steps back from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear accord with major powers.
The 2015 deal set a 3.67% limit for uranium enrichment but Iran announced it would no longer respect it after Washington unilaterally abandoned the agreement last year and reimposed crippling sanctions.
"Based on our needs and what we have been ordered, we are currently producing five percent,” Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at a press conference here.
He said Iran has the "capacity to produce five percent, twenty percent, sixty percent, or any percentage” of enriched uranium.
The current five percent level exceeds the limit set by the accord but is less than the 20% Iran had previously operated.
In its fourth step away from the agreement, Iran resumed enrichment at the Fordow plant south of Tehran on Thursday, with engineers feeding uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) into the plant’s mothballed enrichment centrifuges.
Iran was already enriching uranium at another plant in Natanz.
Tehran emphasizes the measures it has taken are swiftly reversible if the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — find a way to get around U.S. sanctions.
On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond a 300-kilogram (661 lb) maximum set by the deal, and a week later, it announced it had exceeded the enrichment cap.
The third move had it firing up advanced centrifuges on September 7 to enrich uranium faster and to higher levels.
Kamalvandi also said Saturday Iran is prepared, if necessary, to release footage of an incident with a UN nuclear inspector last week that led to it canceling her accreditation.
Kamalvandi said that a check at the entrance gate to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant "triggered the alarm multiple times, showing the inspector was either contaminated with certain materials or had them on her.”
Kamalvandi said that Iran’s report on the incident to the International Atomic Energy Agency had convinced everyone but "the U.S., the Zionist regime and some Persian Gulf countries.”
"We’ve announced that, if needed, we will even present the footage of this,” he told the news conference, noting that Iran’s "bitter experiences” of nuclear sabotage had led to the strict system of checks.
The spokesman confirmed that the Fordow facility is now enriching uranium at almost the same levels before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The rate will increase "gradually" as part of the country's new step away from the 2015 nuclear deal in response to violations by the United States, he said.
Kamalvandi said the enrichment capacity after Iran started injecting gas into 1,044 centrifuges in Ferdow has risen to some 9,500 separative work units (SWUs), which is 87 percent to 90 percent of the pre-JCPOA levels.
"Gradually, the enrichment capacity will increase at Fordow in the coming days," he said. "With the beginning of gas injection into the centrifuges at Fordow, the enrichment capacity of 8,600 SWUs will go all the way up to 9,500 SWUs and we won't be far off compared to before the JCPOA."
As part of the fourth rollback of its commitments under the nuclear deal, Iran began injecting gas into its Fordow centrifuges earlier this week.
The step involves injecting UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) gas into centrifuges under the supervision of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Under the the JCPOA, the first-generation IR-1 centrifuges at Fordow are only allowed to spin without uranium gas.
Asked whether the new step is the last technical one in Iran's suspension of its commitments, Kamalvandi said: "This is not the last step and other steps can also come into play."
"We have taken four steps and it's about time the other side comes into its senses. Of course there are other steps," he said, cautioning the remaining signatories of the deal -- the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany -- that the next steps won't be limited to technical matters.
Kamalvandi said Iran initially did not want to scale back its JCPOA obligations but decided to do so after the U.S. decision to abandon the agreement disrupted the balance between commitments and tasks.
The Islamic Republic says the suspension of its commitments is not a violation of the JCPOA, adding it is based on Articles 26 and 36 of the agreement itself, which detail mechanisms to deal with non-compliance.