Iran set to break uranium stockpile limit

Jack Unwin 18 June 2019 (Last Updated July 28th, 2020 23:27)

The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that it will exceed the limit set on its uranium stockpile by a long-term international deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on 27 June.

Iran set to break uranium stockpile limit
Arak Nuclear Plant in Iran, where Behrouz Kamalvandi made the statement on Iran’s uranium enrichment. Credit: Nanking2012

The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that it will exceed the limit set on its uranium stockpile by a long-term international deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on 27 June.

According to a statement made by Iranian Atomic Energy Authority spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi from the Arak nuclear reactor in Western Iran, the country may also begin enriching its uranium closer to weapons-grade capability from 7 July.

Iran said that it is doing this in retaliation against President Trump pulling the US out of the deal signed by the US and the five members of the UN Security Council and European Union in April 2015. Because of this and US sanctions, the country cannot export its uranium, leading to the increased stockpile.

The deal stipulated that Iran was able to stockpile no more than 300kg of low-enriched uranium, which Iran will exceed on 27 June. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran had 174.1kg of enriched uranium in May 2019.

Kamalvandi also noted that Iran needed to enrich its uranium to 5% at its Bushehr plant and 20% for the Tehran research reactor, more than the 3.67% agreed, to ensure the plants were used for peaceful purposes.

The news comes as tension escalates in the region due to the attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and Iran’s alleged involvement in it.

Reaction to the announcement

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani tweeted: “Starting today, Iran does not keep its enriched uranium and produced heavy water limited. The EU/E3+2 will face Iran’s further actions if they cannot fulfil their obligations within the next 60 days and secure Iran’s interests. Win-Win conditions will be accepted.”

The German Foreign Office also tweeted: “We will not accept less for less regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We stick with the agreement and except the same from Iran.

“All parties say they do not want war. But this is not enough. All parties have to proactively contribute to de-escalate the situation.”

In a US state department briefing on 17 June, department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said: “I would say that we are unfortunately not surprised by the Iranian announcement. This is a pattern of 40 years of behaviour. It’s consistent with how the Iranian regime behaves.

“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community. Iran, as evident by their announcement today but also their pattern of behaviour over the past few years, is keen on expanding, or seems to be keen on expanding their nuclear programme, and it now wants to exceed these nuclear limits in advance of these so-called sunset clauses.”

UK Minister for the Middle East Dr Andrew Murrison MP responded to a question in the House of Commons yesterday by stating: “It is vital that we keep to the joint comprehensive plan of action, as I discussed with His Excellency the Iranian ambassador a short while ago. The International Atomic Energy Agency is currently of the view that Iran is compliant.

“Clearly, we want to hold Iran to the commitments that it made with the P5+1 and the European Union, and hope very much that that forms the basis of a productive way forward.”

Murrison also noted that he expects to visit Tehran soon to discuss this.