TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Monday broke further away from its collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers by doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates, linking the decision to U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement over a year ago.
The announcement — which also included Iran saying it now has a prototype centrifuge that works 50 times faster than those allowed under the deal — came as demonstrators across the country marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover that started a 444-day hostage crisis.
By starting these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cut into the one year that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material for building a nuclear weapon. Iran long has insisted its program is for peaceful purposes, though Western fears about its work led to the 2015 agreement that saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Tehran has gone from producing some 1 pound of low-enriched uranium a day to over 11 pounds, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
Visiting Iran’s underground Natanz enrichment facility, Salehi dramatically pushed a button on a keyboard to start a chain of 30 IR-6 centrifuges as state television cameras filmed, increasing the number of working centrifuges to 60.
“With the grace of God, I start the gas injection,” the U.S.-trained scientist said.
The White House in a statement, noting the 40th anniversary of the hostage crisis, said the U.S. “will continue to impose crippling sanctions” until Iran changes its behavior.
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