Iran Continues Breaching Uranium Stockpile and Enrichment Limits
By Jonathan Tirone
International inspectors reported that Iran continued to exceed nuclear limits imposed under its landmark deal with world powers, a breach that has complicated European efforts to salvage the accord abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile stood at 357 kilograms (787 pounds) and that it had enriched the heavy metal to a maximum purity of 4.5%, according to the six-page restricted document seen by Bloomberg News. The 2015 deal allows Iran to accumulate only 300kg of uranium enriched to 3.67%.
“The agency has continued to evaluate Iran’s declarations,” acting Director General Cornel Feruta wrote in the quarterly assessment sent to the IAEA’s board. “The agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material” while assessments of potential “undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remain ongoing,” Feruta said.
It’s the first inspections report since the death of IAEA Director Yukiya Amano in July and arrives at a sensitive diplomatic juncture. Monitors have come under intense U.S. and Israeli pressure to re-activate a probe into Iran’s past work on military uses for its nuclear know-how, an act that Tehran’s government says is unnecessary and would be antagonistic.
The report reiterated that over the last three months the IAEA had been allowed access “to all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit.” The Vienna-based agency has hundreds of inspectors monitoring Iran, both on the ground daily at the country’s nuclear sites, as well as remotely using surveillance technologies.
Monitors urged Iran to provide “timely and proactive cooperation” regarding all sites. They said “technical discussions” continue on new, advanced nuclear equipment undergoing testing.
Ensuring the IAEA keeps wider inspections powers granted under the agreement is one reason top European foreign ministers met Friday in Helsinki. “The nuclear deal is the only deal on the table that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said before meeting his French and German counterparts.
While Iran acknowledges it’s breached limits set under the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it rejects that it has violated the accord. That’s because the document allows participants to cease meeting commitments “in whole or in part” in the event of an unresolved dispute. Tehran’s government argues that Europe has an obligation to help it avoid reimposed U.S. sanctions, something the bloc has so far struggled to do.
Iran has warned that if it’s not able to resume oil sales, it’s prepared to escalate the nuclear dispute even further by enriching uranium to levels closer to what would be needed for military purposes.
The standoff over oil exports, that’s included the tit-for-tat seizing of tankers by U.K. and Iranian authorities, has also fueled concerns of a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf.