The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that by June 27 its stockpile of enriched uranium will exceed 300kg. Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told a televised news conference that the production of enriched uranium has increased four-fold and that the countdown to exceed the 300kg limit has already begun.
Kamalvandi called on the parties that signed the nuclear agreement to fulfill their obligations under the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). "There is still time for the Europeans... But the Europeans have expressed indirectly their inability to act,” he said, and threatened that, if they did not, Iran would take the next step and start enriching uranium beyond 3.67 percent which, according to him, would take no more than two days.
He claimed that in less two weeks Iran’s stockpile of 3.67-percent enriched uranium will surpass the ceiling agreed on as part of the JCPOA. This will mean that for the first time since January 16, 2016, when the JCPOA went into effect, Iran will have more enriched uranium than had previously been agreed.
In the 15 reports it has published since the nuclear agreement was implemented, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which supervises Iranian nuclear activities under the JCPOA, has certified that over the last three and a half years Iran has completely fulfilled all its obligations under the agreement.
If on June 27 Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium exceeds 300km, this would be the first time that Iran has violated the terms of the agreement since it went into effect. Nevertheless, it is not accurate to conclude that Iran will have violated the terms of the JCPOA irrevocably. If any country volunteers to buy the excess enriched uranium from Iran and Iran is ready to sell it, then, with the export of the excess uranium, the Islamic Republic would still be in compliance. According to the terms of the JCPOA, Iran is not forbidden from producing more than 300kg of enriched uranium. What it is forbidden is to retain more than 300kg of 3.67-percent enriched uranium on Iranian soil.
The problem is that the United States has forbidden countries to purchase enriched uranium from Iran, and if a country violates this ban, it is likely to become the target of US economic sanctions and even face fines or prosecution by the American judiciary. Under such conditions, it is possible that Iran will not be able to sell its excess enriched uranium even if it is willing to do so.
If Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium remains over 300kg for a few days before a scheduled meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, one of its two policy-making bodies, then IAEA’s inspectors will report the situation to the agency’s director general who is obligated by the United Nations to inform the 35 member countries of its Board of Governors, which include the United States and several other countries that initially helped design and implement the deal. Then Iran would be declared to be in violation of the JCPOA when it comes to its stockpiling of enriched uranium.
A Key Term of the Agreement
One of the most important goals of the JCPOA was the reduction of Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons. The nuclear agreement set the permitted volume of the stockpile at such a level that if Iran decided to make a nuclear bomb, it would need a year instead of three months. In other words, controlling the volume of Iran’s enriched uranium was one of the key demands of the 5+1 group of countries — the US, the UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany — when endorsing the JCPOA.
According to Iran, this term of the JCPOA will be violated on June 27, although the violation will not become official until the IAEA announces it. And if the IAEA does announce that the Islamic Republic is in violation of the agreement, then the parties remaining in the JCPOA will call for an emergency meeting between their foreign ministers. If at this juncture Iran does not reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium to the level allowed under the JCPOA, the issue will be referred to the UN Security Council within, at most, 65 days.
At that point the members of the Security Council will vote whether to continue the suspension of international sanctions against Iran or to re-impose them. If all permanent members of the Security Council do not vote to keep the suspension in place, then the European Union’s nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be re-imposed.
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The Nuclear Deal: Will Khamenei Get What he Wants?, May 29, 2018
Khamenei’s Eight Conditions for Talks with Europe, May 25, 2018
The 12 Demands of Pompeo's New Iran Strategy, May 21, 2018