Iran to break nuclear deal and expand Uranium production

Iran announced yesterday that it had quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and will break the limit of its uranium stockpile as set out in the 2015 nuclear deal.

The 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal restricts Iran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67 per cent purity and limits its stockpile to 300kg of enriched uranium. Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency, said the country would exceed the limits on its stockpile by June 27 “based on the country’s needs”. Speaking to journalists at the Arak heavy water facility yesterday, Kamalvandi said that Iran had already quadrupled the production of low-enriched uranium “and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit. There is still time … if European countries act”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there was a short window to save the nuclear deal. Speaking with the French ambassador to Tehran, Rouhani said: “The current situation is very critical and France and the other parties to the (deal) still have a very limited opportunity to play their historic role for saving the deal … there is no doubt that the collapse of the (accord) will not be beneficial for Iran, France, the region and the world.”

Following Iran’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the international community “to implement, immediately, the pre-set sanctions mechanism” should Iran go through with a plan to exceed the enriched uranium limit set by the 2015 nuclear agreement.

In early May Iran stopped complying with some commitments in the nuclear deal and said that the international community had 60 days to come up with new measures to protect its economy from US sanctions or it would begin enriching uranium at a higher level. Although it is not clear the level to which Iran would be prepared to enrich, the head of Iran’s nuclear programme said that it could reach 20 per cent enrichment within four days.

The US announced yesterday that it would deploy an additional 1,000 personnel to the Middle East for “defensive purposes to address air, naval and ground-based threats”, according to acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan. This followed a decision in May to deploy 1,500 personnel to the region due to unspecified threats to US forces from Iran.