News ID: 86679
Publish Date : 18 January 2021 - 21:20
TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday the country’s nuclear facilities are now producing almost half a kilo of 20 percent enriched uranium every hour.
"Based on the latest news I have, they are producing 20 grams (of 20-percent enriched uranium) every hour, meaning that we are practically producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi told Persian-language Khamenei.ir website.
Earlier this month, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran confirmed that Tehran had informed the United Nations nuclear agency of its plan to enrich uranium to up to 20 percent purity at its Fordow site buried inside a mountain.
The decision came after parliament passed a bill, later approved by a constitutional oversight body, aimed at hiking enrichment.  
The measure was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in response to the assassination of the country’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Nov 27.
"We are soldiers and our hands are on the trigger. Once the chief gives the order, we can act very quickly,” Salehi said days later.
Salehi said Monday that Iran’s nuclear facilities were able to increase enrichment to 20 percent within just 24 hours of the parliament decree. He added that there have not been any technical hitches.
Since the collapse of a 2015 nuclear deal following the U.S. withdrawal, Iran has resumed enrichment, scaling down some of its compliance after the Europeans’ failure to support the Islamic Republic.  
Salehi said Iran is ready to reduce its enrichment program but this will depend on U.S. action.
The U.S., he said, must return to

the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and remove all sanctions against Iran, especially those that prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.
Last week, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi warned that time was running out to revive the Iran nuclear deal, contending that the world had entered "a new reality” with Iran.
An Iranian spokesperson said this month that the incoming Biden administration, which takes office on January 20, will have until February 21 to reverse U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Salehi said Iran’s distrust of the United States is based on realities, stressing that Washington needs to first rebuild the missing trust.
The official referred to talks of U.S. return to the JCPOA and the removal of sanctions, saying the most important sanctions that must be removed are those on Iran’s oil sales and banking transactions.
"We will have no more problem doing our job if our banking transactions are processed and our oil is sold flawlessly,” he said.
Salehi noted that the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against Iran have stopped the country’s exports, and done great damage on Iran.
"We used to export 2.5 million barrels of oil before Trump’s withdrawal, but that plunged to under one million after his withdrawal from the JCPOA. They prevented our oil sales, and then gradually blocked exports of our other resources, including petrochemical products,” Salehi said.
"Because of the U.S. sanctions, we lost all the revenues we could earn by selling our oil and making profitable investments,” he said, adding the country is firm in its resolve to demand compensation from the U.S.
Salehi said Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Khamenei has called on officials to increase Iran’s nuclear power generation capacity to 30,000 megawatts.
"We currently have 1,000 MW, and we are building [plants for generation of] 2,000 additional megawatts of electricity,” Salehi said.
Iran, he said, is currently building the Bushehr II and Bushehr III nuclear power plants, which will be completed in eight years.
"The cost of building these plants is very huge. … It will cost $5 billion to construct every single 1,000 MW nuclear power plant, but each of them will remain in service for 70 years with an annual operation cost of $100 million,” he said.
Salehi said Iran should also provide 300 tonnes of natural uranium annually for each nuclear power plant. "We have just reached the capacity to produce 40 tonnes a year, and we need to work a lot to reach 300 tonnes.”
Russia’s Rosatom energy firm has been contributing to the construction of the two new nuclear power plants which are about to come online by 2027.
Iran has expanded its electricity generation capacity in recent years to 86,000 megawatts. The country relies on gas-fired thermal power plants for the bulk of its energy generation, with the government speeding up plans to diversify production sources.
Iran has been fully complying with international regulations in expanding its nuclear power generation capacity.
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