On Tuesday, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), announced that Iran would increase its production of 20% enriched uranium to eight times its present amount.
“This year, the production of yellowcake will be between 35 and 40 tons, which means that we have 8-folded the production of yellowcake,” Salehi said, according to Fars News Agency. He added the country can produce between 17 and 20 grams of uranium with 20% purity per hour.
“Until three or four years ago, we used to produce an average of 4 to 5 tons of yellowcake, but for the past two years, we have increased the production of yellowcake to 30 tons,” he added.
When mined, uranium contains several isotopes, but only U-235 can be used for nuclear fission reactions like those that power nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. By removing the other uranium isotopes, the enriched uranium becomes more reactive and takes the form of a powdery substance called yellowcake. However, the enrichment process requires fast-spinning centrifuges – Iran’s access to which is greatly limited by the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
To that end, Salehi said the country was “currently installing one thousand IR-2m centrifuges” that would speed up Iran’s enrichment rate from 8 or 9 kilograms per month to 120 kilograms, in line with the Iranian Parliament’s “Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions” passed last month.