Ali-Akbar Salehi, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (IAEO) said that "if the need arises," as Supreme Leader Khamenei put it, Iran is capable of increasing uranium enrichment to 60% within 24 hours. He made these remarks in an interview from the Tehran research reactor, which aired on Channel 2 (Iran) on February 26, 2021. Salehi said that Iran could not stop enriching uranium to 20% if it wanted to do so, because it is obliged to produce 120 kg of 20% enriched uranium within a year. He added that at the current rate of production, Iran is expected to reach this goal within five or six months and then the Majles will have to decide whether production should be continued. Salehi said that despite those who committed the "evil act" of targeting the Natanz nuclear facility, Iran has returned to producing 60-70% of the centrifuges it was capable of producing before the attack in less than a month. He added that now Iran is busy digging deep into the mountains in order to create more space for its nuclear facilities.
Ali-Akbar Salehi: "We have managed to make the 20% [enrichment lineup] operational withing 24 hours.
"Even if we wanted to put a break [on the enrichment], we couldn't. The law talks about 120 kilogram [of 20% enriched uranium per year. This means that we must produce 10 kilograms per month. Not a month passed and we already produced 25-26 kilograms. In five or six months, the goals of 120 kilograms will be achieved, and we are still wondering what we should do then – stop or not.
"We will produce the 120 kilograms, and then we will ask the Majles whether to continue or not.
"We are talking about 1,000 IR6 centrifuges of every new generation ... If we were talking about 100, 200, or 300 [centrifuges] – perhaps. But 1,000? We are producing them now. All of this is after the incident in Natanz. They targeted our center for assembly of new-generation centrifuges, but, thank God, and in spite of those who committed this evil act, we restored a reasonable 60-70% of our previous capacity within a month, and we are now producing [those centrifuges]. In addition we are digging deep into the mountain, so that they understand that no one messes with the Islamic Republic. The government made this commitment and we are creating very large halls inside the mountain."
Interviewer: "You have mentioned the honorable Leader. He said the if the need arises we would enrich even to 60%."
Salehi: "Yes, we now have this capability and the law allows us to do so. This capability already exists. This is another one of those things that can be implemented within 24 hours.
Interviewer: "That fast?"
Salehi: "Yes, that fast."