Iran is ramping up enrichment of low-grade uranium and will pass the limit it is allowed to stockpile under the nuclear deal in 10 days, a spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency announced Monday.
During a news conference at the Arak heavy water reactor facility, Behrouz Kamalvandi said that Iran had increased low enriched uranium production fourfold and would exceed the limit of 300 kilograms by June 27, in the latest blow to the nuclear deal agreed between Tehran and world powers in 2015.
“If Iran feels that the sanctions have been reinstated or not lifted, Iran has the right to partly or on the whole suspend its commitments,” Kamalvandi said, referring to sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal but have since been reinstated by the US. The Trump administration withdrew from the pact in May 2018.
However, he said, there was still time for European countries to save the nuclear deal if they “abide by their commitments.”
After exceeding the limit, Iran will accelerate uranium enrichment to 3.7%, Kamalvandi said – above the 3.67% mandated by the nuclear deal. Enrichment at this percentage is enough to continue powering parts of the country’s energy needs, but not enough to ever build a nuclear bomb.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran was permitted to stockpile limited amounts of enriched uranium and heavy water produced in that process, exporting any excess. Doing so has become extremely difficult after the US revoked waivers that allowed Iran to export those excess stockpiles, effectively forcing Iran to halt enrichment or ignore the limits, which it is now doing.
President Hassan Rouhani declared in May that Iran was reducing its “commitments to the deal” but not fully withdrawing from it.
Rouhani said at the time that Iran would keep its excess enriched uranium and heavy water, instead of selling it to other countries.
Iran’s important message to Europe
Iran has reiterated that it could reverse the new measures should the remaining European signatories in the nuclear deal (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) step in and make more of an effort to circumvent US sanctions.
Tehran has repeatedly criticized Europe’s delay in establishing their own trade channel to Iran, and Monday’s announcement is yet another sign that the nation is growing increasingly impatient.
“I think til now the Europeans have not done their part and they’ve wasted a lot of time,” Kamalvandi said during the press conference. “They have given us a lot of good words but not deeds.”
During a meeting with Iran’s new French ambassador Philippe Thiebaud, Rouhani said that the collapse of the nuclear deal is “not in the interest of Iran, France, the region and the world,” according to the nation’s semi-official news agency Fars News.
However, the Iranian President added that Europe only has a “very small chance” to ensure the deal continues to exist given the current situation is “sensitive.”
In response, a Downing Street spokesperson said at a briefing Monday that if Iran breaches its low-grade uranium stockpile limits, which was agreed under the nuclear pact, then the UK would look at “all options.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said that the Iran announcement was regretful, adding that France “encourage(s) them to adopt a patient and responsible behavior.”
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini both said that they expect Iran to live up to its obligations as laid out in the deal.
“As of this moment, as of today, Iran is compliant and we strongly hope, encourage, expect that Iran continues to comply with its commitment in full,” Mogherini sa