Iran Could Enrich Uranium Higher if US Exits Nuclear Deal

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Iran is willing and able to pursue higher uranium enrichment if the US pulls out of a 2015 nuclear deal, an Iranian official said on Tuesday.

Iran is willing and able to pursue higher uranium enrichment if the US pulls out of a 2015 nuclear deal, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Tuesday (May 1).

According to Iranian state TV, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, has warned, “Iran has the technical capability to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before a multinational nuclear deal was reached to curb its nuclear program.”  

The2015 deal was penned by former US President Barack Obama and signed by six other countries: Iran, China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany. It lifted stringent economic sanctions on Iran contingent on the country reducing, eradicating and complying with strict nuclear energy limitations.

The dealwhich was hailed as a massive step towards global disarmament, was aimed directly at the two uranium enrichment facilities in Iran — Natanz and Fordo — where uranium hexafluoride gas is fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope, U-235.

Low-enriched uranium, which has a concentration of 3 to 4 percent U-235, can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants, and falls under international guidelines. However, it can also be enriched to the 90 percent needed to produce nuclear weapons.

In the three years since the agreement was signed, Iran has greatly reduced the number of centrifuges used at Nantz and Fordo, while also shipping tonnes of low-grade enriched uranium to Russia. The ultimate goal is to reduce Iran’s stockpile by 98 percent for 15 years, with a maximum uranium enrichment level of 3.67 percent.

According to Reuters, Trump will not extend US involvement in the deal if the European signatories do not fix what he has dubbed “terrible flaws” in the agreement. The US leader believes the deal is too lenient and that Iran has broken parts of the agreement, including heavy-water limits and access to international inspectors.

On Monday (April 30), Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu took to his country’s national TV to announce his support of Trump’s stance. The Israeli leader also used his TV time to present documents he claims prove Iran was developing nuclear weapons before the 2015 deal was brokered.

“We learned an enormous amount about Iran’s secret nuclear program. Now, the deal that everybody is talking about was premised on the fact that Iran had no such material. But Iran bothered, took enormous pains after the nuclear deal and before but especially after to hide this information. It’s like an arsenal of knowledge,” Netanyahu told CNN on Tuesday morning.

Although Israel, which is not involved in the deal, has shown solidarity with Trump, the European countries that did sign are adamant that the current deal should remain in place to ensure global security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his country’s state media that the continued involvement of all international players “[is] of paramount importance for ensuring international stability and security and must be strictly observed by all parties.”

Trump has given the European nations until May 12 to ratify the existing deal, or the US will pull out completely, leaving the remaining countries in a precarious situation.   

“Iran is not bluffing,” Salehi added. “Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached. I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal.”

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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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