Iran Exceeds Nuclear Deal's Uranium Enrichment Threshold

Iran announced they are to breach the limits on uranium enrichment on Sunday. The limits were put in place by an agreement signed by six nations in 2015. 

This increase in enriched uranium production – which can be used for reactors and nuclear weapons – comes after U.S President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and placed economic sanctions on the country last year. 

Deputy Foreign Minister for Iran Abbas Araqchi said at a news conference that Iran would breach the 3.67% threshold on Sunday to adequately supply the Bushehr power plant. How much enriched uranium Iran produced in the future would be based on their needs, Abbas added. 

The threshold was set to allow Iran to produce enough uranium to power their country, but not to create a nuclear bomb. 

The country is only allowed to produce low-enriched uranium, which has between 3 – 4 percent concentration of U-235, according to the agreement. Iran is also forbidden from stockpiling over 661 pounds of low-enriched uranium. A stockpile of 2,314 pounds would be enough to create a nuclear bomb, according to the Arms Control Association. 

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that Iran didn’t need to make fuel for the Tehran reactor, which would require a 20% concentration. Uranium is considered “weapon-grade” at a concentration of 90% 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."

Iran announced back in May that they would increase the amount of enriched uranium they produced despite the deal made by the nations, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 

Sunday marked the 60-day deadline given to Iran by the other countries in the accord to end sanctions on their banking and oil sectors. Sunday also marked the first anniversary of when the United States pulled out of the deal. China, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and the European Union remain part of the accord. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Sarif sent a letter to European Union foreign representative Frederica Mogherini that Iran would no longer adhere to the deal and its commitments, according to Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Seyed Abbas Araghchi. 

“We will give an additional 60 days starting today before taking further steps,” he said in the letter. 

A spokesperson from the EU said that the bloc was “extremely concerned at Iran’s announcement.” The spokesperson added, “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.” 

Trump’s decision to leave the accord put pressure on the other countries to also pull out. French President Emmanuel Macron has worked to maintain the agreement and keep it together. 

Macron spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday via telephone, according to official Iranian news agency IRNA and the Élysée presidential palace in Paris.

France says Macron reached an agreement with Rouhani to explore options “for a resumption of dialogue between all parties” by July 15. Macron also voiced his “strong concerns” about the potential the nuclear agreement would become weaker without further discussion and negotiation.

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