TEHRAN – Iran’s atomic agency said on Monday that the country will exceed the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile in accordance with the 2015 international nuclear deal within 10 days.
In a televised statement from the Arak heavy water nuclear plant, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said the country had quadrupled its enriched uranium production.
The move appeared to snuff out any possibility that Tehran would delay its decision to suspend its compliance with elements of the historic accord.
“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300kg limit,” AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.
He also said that in two months Iran will have surpassed the 130 tons of heavy water the deal allows it to store.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action stipulates that Iran must export excess enriched uranium and heavy water in order to prevent the country from having the capacity to build a nuclear bomb.
The deal suffered a huge blow last year when the United States, under President Donald Trump, decided to unilaterally withdraw from it in order to re-impose sanctions on Iran, focusing mainly on the country’s oil and banking sector.
Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, the remaining parties to the 2015 agreement, have so far failed to offset the fallout of Trump’s sanctions.
Marking the anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal in May this year, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said his country would also scale back its compliance with the 2015 deal, which saw Tehran trade in much of its nuclear program for a slight alleviation of international economic sanctions.
Rouhani initially issued a moratorium of 60 days for the remaining members to offer counter-measures to the US sanction.
Should the remaining parties fail to come up with a compromise, he said Iran will enrich uranium beyond the 3.67 percent limit set out in the deal.
The AEAI spokesman said it would not take long to push passed those enrichment limits, adding that it would depend on the “country’s needs.”
He said the Bushehr Nucelar Power Plant, in the south of the country, could require uranium enriched to up to five percent while 20 percent could be needed for a research reactor in Tehran.
Kamalvandi continued that Iran had two theories as to why the European nations in the pact were unable to offer solutions: “The first is that they don’t want to uphold their commitment, the second is that they don’t have the ability to confront their rival, the US.”
“They should adopt measures as soon as possible because if we start to advance (with the nuclear program) it will be hard to return to the original situation,” he added.
The European parties to the agreement were working to launch a mechanism called Instex, which looks to help Iran circumnavigate the US sanctions, although it will unlikely facilitate Iranian oil sales.
Tensions between the US and Iran have spiraled in recent months.
The US has increased its military presence in the region and has blamed Iran for a series of alleged sabotage attacks against oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a busy trade route for the global crude oil industry.
It has also accused Iran of backing and supplying weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen, who have launched several cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia in recent weeks.
Iran has accused the US of trying to “sabotage diplomacy” in the region.
The US is allied with Saudi Arabia and Israel, two of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regional foes.
During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly called the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, the “worst deal ever.”
Once in office, he severed Washington’s involvement in the pact despite the fact the International Atomic Energy Agency found Iran had fully complied with all of the stipulations it signed up to.