Iran to surpass limits on uranium enrichment set by nuclear deal

Iran announced it will breach limits on uranium enrichment Sunday that were set by a nuclear deal signed with six nations in 2015.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) and the head of Iran nuclear technology organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, inspect nuclear technology on Iran National Nuclear Technology Day in Tehran, Iran, on April 9 . Iran said Sunday said it was to exceed the limit on uranium enrichment reached in a 2015 nuclear agreement with leading powers.

The increased production of enriched uranium, which can be used to make fuel for reactors and also nuclear weapons, comes after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and re-introduced economic sanctions in 2018.

Iran’s Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said at a news conference Iran would cross the 3.67 percent threshold Sunday to supply the Bushehr power plant, and future concentration will be based on Iran’s needs.

The level was designed to uranium to parts of the country, but not enough to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran is only permitted to produce low-enriched uranium with a 3 percent to 4 percent concentration of U-235, based on the accord. Also, Iran can’t stockpile more than 661 pounds of the low-enriched uranium. A stockpile of 2,314 pounds could be further enriched into enough material to build one bomb, according to the Arms Control Association.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said Iran doesn’t need to make fuel for its Tehran reactor, which requires a concentration of 20 percent. Weapons-grade uranium is 90 percent enriched or more.

“We are aware of Iran’s announcement related to its uranium enrichment level,” Fredrik Dahl, an International Atomic Energy Agency, told CNN. “IAEA inspectors in Iran will report to our headquarters as soon as they verify the announced development.”

In May, Iran announced it would increase the amount of enriched uranium produced despite the landmark deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Sunday was the 60-day deadline given by Iran to the remaining nations who signed the accord to end sanctions imposed on its banking and oil sectors. Sunday was the one-year anniversary of when the Untied Sates pulled out of the accord. But China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the European Union had remained.

In a letter to the European Union’s foreign representative Federica Mogherini, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran would no longer adhere to the deal’s commitments, according to the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi.

“We will give an additional 60 days of time starting today before taking further steps,” he wrote in Sunday’s letter.

An EU spokesperson said the bloc was “extremely concerned at Iran’s announcement.” “We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments under the JCPOA … we are in contact with the other JCPOA participants regarding the next steps,” the spokesperson said.

Trump’s decision has put pressure on the remaining signatories to pull out of the accord.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been attempting to salvage the agreement.

Macrons and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone Saturday, according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA and the Élysée presidential palace in Paris.

Afterward, France said Macron agreed with Rouhani to explore options “for a resumption of dialogue between all parties” by July 15.

Macron voiced “his strong concern about the risk of a further weakening of the 2015 nuclear agreement, and the consequences that would necessarily follow.”

ByAllen Cone