Iran threatens to boost enriched uranium stockpile

Iran threatened Saturday to boost enriched uranium stockpile after the Trump administration dismissed a French-led effort to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that U.S. sanctions need to be lifted to restart talks on nuclear deal. With the United States refusing to lift sanctions, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said Saturday that nuclear research and enriched uranium stockpile would be accelerated. File Photo by Abedin Taherkenareh

Once enriched, uranium can become fuel for nuclear weapons or reactors.

The multi-nation Iran nuclear deal placed a limit of 661 pounds on Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, which Iran has already surpassed.

Last year President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran nuclear deal signed with six nations in 2015 and re-introduced economic sanctions. France had led an effort to give Iran a $15 billion bailout to return to full compliance with nuclear deal after Europe failed to meet a deadline to offset U.S. sanctions impact on Iran in July, but Trump said it was undermining his effort to exert “maximum pressure” on Iran.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told reporters Saturday that a day earlier Iran had started feeding small numbers of more advanced centrifuges with uranium.

Instead of turning more advanced centrifuges output back into natural uranium as mandated under the nuclear deal, Iran would add the enriched uranium to its stockpile, Kamalvandi added, warning that the country’s enriched uranium stockpile would see “a very high jump” within the next 20 days.

“As long as the other side do not fulfill their commitments, we should not be expected to do so either,” Kamalvandi said. “Our stockpile will go high from now on.”

His comments followed Iran announcing earlier this week it would began developing centrifuges to speed up the process for its uranium enrichment.

Amid tensions over the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, there have been attacks on commercial ships in the Persian Gulf.

On Saturday, maritime guards seized a foreign tugboat carrying fuel to neighboring countries, which was accused of smuggling 75,000 gallons of diesel fuel in the Persian Gulf. The nationality of the ship was not disclosed, but 12 nationals of the Philippines were arrested, the commander said.

BySommer Brokaw