Iran: High-Level Uranium Enrichment Could Be Weeks Away

- May 9th, 2018

Iranian President Rouhani warned the country may resume high-level uranium enrichment in the next weeks if a nuclear deal fails.

Iran warned of its high-level enrichment capabilities after President Trump announced US will pull out of the multinational Iran nuclear deal and reissued strong sanctions.

After giving the European signatories and China until May 12 to renegotiate terms of the Iran nuclear deal, Trump signed a presidential memorandum withdrawing the US from the Obama-era deal on Tuesday (May 8).

The move prompted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to say he will send his foreign minister to negotiate with the remaining signatory countries.

However, he also warned, “I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready for action if needed, so that if necessary we can resume our enrichment on an industrial level without any limitations.”

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Iran could possibly restart high-level uranium enrichment, “in the next weeks.”

The 2015 deal which is considered Rouhani’s signature foreign policy achievement, brought together the US, Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany in a landmark agreement that sought to reduce Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities for a reduction and removal of strict sanctions.

While it is disappointing that the US has left the negotiations, Rouhani seems optimistic that a deal can be reached with the remaining countries.

“If at the end of this short period, we’ve concluded that we are able to achieve our demands in the deal, the deal will survive,” Rouhani said.

He went on to say, Iran is willing to continue, “constructive engagement with the world.”

In a televised address to the nation, Trump stated he will reinstate the highest level of sanctions against Iran and further warned other countries to not aid the Iranian government.

“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” Trump said in his address. “The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing we know exactly what will happen.”

According to Trump, his main issue with the now three-year old deal is it only limits Iran’s nuclear activities for a fixed- period, has failed to stop the development of ballistic missiles and has provided Iran a US$100 billion payout that it allegedly used “as a slush fund for weapons, terror, and oppression” across the Middle East.

The multinational deal, which was hailed as a global gateway for nuclear disarmament, aimed to drastically reduce Iran’s uranium enrichment and subsequent nuclear weapons development by targeting the country’s two uranium enrichment facilities – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas is fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope U-235.

Uranium enriched at low-level, has a  3-4 percent concentration of U-235, and can safely be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants, in accordance to international guidelines.

However, it can also be enriched to the 90 percent needed to produce nuclear weapons, the levels the 2015 deal had successfully targeted.

Another one of the main caveats from the original 2015 deal, is the lifting of sanctions on Iranian oil, allowing exports to the west to resume. Iran is OPEC’s third largest oil producing country and exported 777 million barrels in 2017 largely due to the laxed sanctions brought on by the now disintegrating  deal.

The US Treasury said economic sanctions would not be reimposed immediately on Iran, but would be subject to 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods.

Meanwhile, a representative of EU weighed in, expressing a collective disappoint with the US decision.

“As long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it has been doing so far and has been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 10 consecutive reports, the EU will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal,” High Representative Frederica Mogherini said in a statement.

The only global leader that seems to support Trump is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been an outspoken supporter of Trump’s stance regarding Iran.

“Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran,” Netanyahu said following Trump’s announcement.

While news of a possible oil shortage drove prices over US$70 a barrel, the spot price of uranium also experienced a slight bump in price, up US$0.15 to US$21.00.

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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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