Iran Announces New Nuclear Centrifuge Factory As Tensions Persist With Washington

The head of Iran's atomic agency announced Wednesday that his country has completed a factory capable of producing enough rotors for up to 60 centrifuges per day, as the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal remains unclear and tensions persist with Washington.

"Now that [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei] has given the order, this factory has started all of its work," said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Islamic Republic's Atomic Energy Organization, Reuters reported.

According to Salehi, the factory itself does not break with the terms of the nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He also explained that the new factory has the capacity to construct rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges each day.

The centrifuges are key to the uranium enrichment process, and the agreement aimed to limit the number Iran could construct. Salehi also said that Iran has managed to stockpile 900 to 950 tons of uranium to enrich, with an additional 400 tons imported since 2015, Al Jazeera reported. He explained that his nation is on track to reach its goal of operating 190,000 centrifuges to enrich the nuclear fuel.

Iranian technicians are seen at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facilities (UCF), 261 miles south of Tehran, August 8, 2005. President Donald Trump officially announced in May that the U.S. would step away from the 2015 agreement with Iran and five other nations. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

"Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but did not start it," the atomic chief said, according to Reuters.

President Donald Trump officially announced in May that the U.S. would step away from the 2015 agreement with Iran and five other nations. Following Trump's decision, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised to implement the "strongest sanctions in history" against Tehran.

The treaty's other signatories—Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China—have worked to salvage the agreement, which allows Iran to sell its oil on world markets and for foreign companies to begin investments in the country.

Responding to Trump's decision, Tehran has signaled it is ready to get its nuclear enrichment program back up and running. For now, however, it has said it will wait to see how the other signatories respond to the U.S. decision. Although the European signatories have voiced their support for the agreement, Iran has urged them to take "tangible" steps to ensure its enforcement.

On 3rd anniversary of JCPOA, it remains a triumph of multilateral diplomacy despite US actions. While we knew US can't be trusted to keep its word—as its allies have now discovered—JCPOA proves that toxic unilateralism of Trump Admin means it can’t be relied on to honor any deal.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 14, 2018

In another potential blow to the deal, the head of the European Investment Bank said Wednesday that it is too risky to lend to Iran.

"There is no European bank which is presently able to do business in and with Iran," Werner Hoyer, the president of the European Union's not-for-profit long-term investment arm, said, according to Euro News.

"We have to take note of the fact that we would risk the business model of the bank if we were active in Iran," Hoyer added, while also saying that he supports efforts to keep the agreement alive.

Iran also officially filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice this week to sue the U.S. for stepping away from the agreement. Tehran aims to hold the U.S. "accountable for its unlawful re-imposition of unilateral sanctions," Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said. According to the foreign ministry, Washington is "legally obliged" to stop breaching the treaty under international law and must also "compensate for all the damage inflicted."