Iran has broken through the barrier set by the 2015 nuclear deal to limit its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, according to Iran and a watchdog group.
Iran’s Fars News Agency said Iran’s stockpile now surpasses 660 pounds, the limit set by the treaty that was negotiated under former President Barack Obama but which President Donald Trump repudiated, Fox News reported.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano confirmed that Iran was now past the level agreed to under the treaty — something it threatened to do in late June unless Western nations bent to its will and negotiated a new agreement to replace the one from which the U.S. withdrew.
Breaking the limit could set the stage for a second step that Iran has threatened. Iranian officials have said that as of July 7, they could increase efforts to enrich the stockpile of uranium Iran now holds to move it closer to weapons-grade uranium if Iran gets no relief from Trump’s sanctions.
“We had previously announced this and we have said it transparently what we are going to do,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, according to The Associated Press.
“We are going to act according to what we have announced and we consider it our right reserved in the nuclear deal.”
The “actions of the Europeans have not been enough so the Islamic Republic will move ahead with its plans as it has previously announced,” Zarif said.
“We are in the process of doing our first phase of actions both on increasing our stockpile of enriched uranium as well as our heavy water reserves.”
Zarif said that despite the U.S. sanctions on Iran, it will not bend.
“Today, Iran has to stand against U.S. economic sanctions through domestic production and relying on national potentials,” he said, according to CBS.
British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt asked Iran to hold off any further plans to go beyond the terms of the deal.
Deeply worried by Iran’s announcement that it has broken existing nuclear deal obligations. UK remains committed to making deal work & using all diplomatic tools to deescalate regional tensions. I urge Iran to avoid any further steps away from JCPoA & come back into compliance.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 1, 2019
The uranium that Iran has stockpiled is known as U-238. That’s the form in which uranium is most commonly found naturally.
To make a bomb, Iran needs a refined, or enriched, isotope called U-235. Increasing purity, known as enrichment, means that atoms that are part of U-238 but not U-235 must be removed. Iran was allowed to refine its U-238 to what is known as 3.67 percent purity, which meant removing 114 atoms out of 140 that differentiate the two isotopes.
It said Monday that limit is the next one it is considering violating.
If uranium become 20 percent pure, 22 more atoms have to go. But from that level, only four more atoms need to be removed to make weapons-grade 90 percent pure U-235, USA Today reported.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said any steps Iran has taken so far are “reversible,” according the New York Post.
Also Monday, an Iranian lawmaker said that if the U.S. attacks Iran, Israel will pay the price, Reuters reported.
“If the U.S. attacks us, only half an hour will remain of Israel’s lifespan,” Mojtaba Zolnour, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy commission, said.