Even Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said the country has given a letter to its representative in the Vienna-based organizations to submit it the IAEA so that the agency’s “inspectors come and unseal” enrichment facilities.
Salehi offered a military analogy to describe the AEOI’s readiness to take the step.
“We are like soldiers and our fingers are on the triggers,” Salehi told national television, according to AP.
“The commander should command and we shoot. We are ready for this and will produce (20% enriched uranium) as soon as possible,” Salehi said.
He said his organization will start the process once President Hassan Rouhani issues an order.
The nuclear chief added Iran would need to switch out natural uranium in centrifuges for material already enriched to 4% to begin the process of going to 20%.
“It should be done under IAEA supervision,” he added.
The decision comes after Iran’s Parliament approved a bill that calls for the production and storage of “at least 120 kilograms per year of 20% enriched uranium” and to put an end to the IAEA inspections if Iran does not receive the benefits promised under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The law was passed following the assassination in late November of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh near Tehran; the Islamic Republic blamed Israel for the assassination.
Rouhani’s government initially opposed the parliamentary motion which was criticized by the other signatories to the accord who called on Tehran not to “compromise the future”.
Tensions have heightened between Iran and the US in the waning days of the administration of President Donald Trump, who unilaterally withdrew the US from the nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed tough sanctions under a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.
The 2015 deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief.
US President-elect Joe Biden has said he is willing to re-enter the nuclear deal.
The other signatories to the deal – China, France, Germany, Russia and Britain – have been playing for time, in advance of Biden's inauguration as US president on January 20.
The Democrat has shown himself to be determined to save the pact, AFP wrote.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said the change of administration in the US means that there is “a last window” for progress that “shouldn’t be wasted”.
The IAEA acknowledged Iran had informed its inspectors of the decision by a letter after news leaked overnight Friday.
“Iran has informed the agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s Parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium ... up to 20 percent at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant,” the IAEA said in a statement.
Shielded by the mountains, Fordo is ringed by anti-aircraft guns and other fortifications some 90 kilometers southwest of Tehran. The 2015 deal called for Fordo to be turned into a research-and-development facility.
The IAEA added that Iran did not say when it planned to boost enrichment, though the agency “has inspectors present in Iran on a 24/7 basis and they have regular access to Fordo.”
Russian Ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov reported the information earlier on Twitter, citing a report submitted by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to the board of governors.
According to the latest report available from the UN agency, published in November, Tehran was enriching uranium to levels greater than the limit provided for in the Vienna agreement (3.67%) but not exceeding the 4.5% threshold, and still complied with the agency’s very strict inspection regime.
Iran has expressed its readiness to reverse the suspension of its commitments under the JCPOA only if the US returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions without any preconditions, or if the European co-chairs manage to protect business ties with Iran against Washington’s sanctions as part of their contractual obligations, Press TV reported.