Iran plans to break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers within the next 10 days, a spokesperson for the country’s atomic agency said Monday.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, also warned that Iran could enrich uranium up to 20 percent, which is just a step below weapons-grade level.
The spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spoke to journalists at Iran’s Arak heavy water facility. He acknowledged that Iran has already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium — which can be used in a nuclear reactor, but not in a bomb.
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Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 660 pounds of low-enriched uranium. Kamalvandi said that given Iran’s recent decision to quadruple its production of low-enriched uranium, it would pass the 660-pound limit on July 27.
The spokesperson said that if Britain, France, Germany and the rest of the European Union pulled through with plans to give Iran access to international banking systems, it would stay within the limits of the nuclear deal, according to The New York Times.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said last month that Iran still remained within its stockpile limits.
Kamalvandi said Iran needs 5 percent enrichment for its nuclear power plant in southern Iranian port of Bushehr and it also needs 20 percent enrichment for a Tehran research reactor. The nuclear deal had limited Iran to enriching uranium only to 3.67 percent, which is enough for power plants and peaceful purposes.
But after America’s pullout and escalated sanctions, Tehran set a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with better terms for the deal, or it would take additional steps away from the accord, likely seeing it boost enrichment further.
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Enriching a supply of uranium means boosting its concentration of the type of uranium that can power a nuclear reaction. That type, or isotope, is called U-235. Enrichment basically means stripping away atoms of another isotope, called U-238.
When uranium is mined, it typically has about 140 atoms of this unwanted isotope for every atom of U-235. Refining it to a purity of 3.67 percent, the level now allowed by the nuclear deal, means removing 114 unwanted atoms of U-238 for every atom of U-235.
Boosting its purity to 20 percent means removing 22 more unwanted isotopes per atom of U-235, while going from there to 90 percent purity means removing just four more per atom of U-235, he noted. Ninety percent is considered weapons-grade material.
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That means going from 20 percent to 90 percent is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran reached its nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, agreeing to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since President Trump took office, the U.S. has steadily stripped away at the accord. Trump pulled America out of the deal in May 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.