The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iran has breached the limit placed on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
IAEA inspectors verified the exceeding of the 300kg cap agreed upon in a joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 group of world leaders in 2015. Under this deal, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and allow the IAEA to inspect its nuclear facilities in return for relief from US, EU and UNSC-imposed nuclear sanctions.
In June 2019, Iran announced that it would exceed the limit set on its uranium stockpile, citing President Trump pulling the US out of the deal in May 2018 and US-imposed sanctions on Iranian uranium exports as reasons for this decision.
On Monday, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the country is also planning on enriching its uranium stockpiles beyond the 3.67% deemed suitable for developing nuclear energy and allowed under the JCPOA.
In a statement on the White House website, US Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said: “The Iranian regime took action today to increase its uranium enrichment. It was a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level.
“There is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms. We must restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran. The United States and its allies will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
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“Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime will continue until its leaders alter their course of action. The regime must end its nuclear ambitions and its malign behavior.”
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 2, 2019
A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC: “The deal makes the world a safer place by taking the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran firmly off the table.
“We have been consistently clear that our commitment to the JCPOA depends on Iran complying in full with the terms of the deal and we urge them to reverse this step.”
Zarif has stated that Iran has not breached the terms of the JCPOA, continuing to cite the US departure from the agreement as justification for increasing Iran’s stockpiles of uranium.
We have NOT violated the #JCPOA.
Para 36 of the accord illustrates why:
We triggered & exhausted para 36 after US withdrawal.
We gave E3+2 a few weeks while reserving our right.
We finally took action after 60 weeks.
As soon as E3 abide by their obligations, we’ll reverse. pic.twitter.com/bSxaMFaktH
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 1, 2019
This development comes as US officials attributed an attack on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz to Iran in June 2019, escalating tensions between the two countries.
While nuclear power currently accounts for around 2% of Iran’s energy through the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the country has expressed its desire to expand its nuclear energy sector and has plans to develop a number of nuclear plants over the next few years.