Iran has said the country plans to quadruple production of low-level enriched uranium and will reach the limit of the stockpile allowed under the nuclear deal within days.
The spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, said on Monday Iran would reach the allowed 300kg level of enriched uranium at levels mandated by the 2015 deal on June 27.
“We will go further from that ceiling, not only that but we will also increase production drastically. After we pass the limit of 300kg the pace and the speed of enriched uranium production at the lower rate will also increase,” Kamalvandi said on Monday, speaking on television from Iran’s Arak nuclear plant.
Tehran stopped complying with some elements of the nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May, a year after theUnited States unilaterally withdrew from the deal. Under it, Iran had agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on May 8 the remaining signatories – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia – had 60 days to implement their promises to protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors from reimposed US sanctions.
Commenting on Monday’s announcement, Ali Fathollah Nejad from the Brookings Doha Center said “The aim is to increase the bargaining leverage and to put increasing pressure on Europe”.
“This is more symbolic than substantial because Iran is not going to commit any violation. They’re going to go as far as possible to the threshold but won’t break it because they’ll lose European support. And for now, this is not the Iranian strategy.”
Kamalvandi said they were still waiting for officials to tell them what the second phase of the strategy for reducing commitments to the JCPOA would be but said the deal could still be salvaged.
“There is still time … if European countries act,” he said.
Rouhani had said in May that Iran could resume high-level enrichment if world powers did not uphold their part of the nuclear deal.
Tehran will increase uranium enrichment levels “based on the country’s needs,” Kamalvandi also said.
He said there were two scenarios. One would be to increase the enrichment up to five percent for the use in the Bushehr power plant, or to increase it up to 20 percent for a research reactor in Tehran.
Both levels would be above the 3.67 percent enrichment allowed under the nuclear deal, and put the country closer to being able to produce weapons-grade material.
The chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Nuclear Committee, Mojtaba Zonnour, said Iran would consider leaving the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) altogether if Europe’s JCPOA signatories fail to do their share of saving the agreement before the 60-day deadline, the Mehr news agency reported on Monday.
Iran says its decision to reduce commitments under the nuclear deal is within its rights under the 2015 agreement.
Monday’s announcement comes amid rising tensions in the Gulf after a series of unexplained attacks on oil vessels and infrastructure in the region, which the US has blamed on Iran or its proxies.