Iran Says It Just Breached the Nuclear Deal's Limit on Enriched Uranium

The breach threatens to kill the 2015 nuclear deal, which the U.S. has already abandoned.
July 1, 2019, 12:58pm
Iran nuclear stockpile deal

Iran announced it has broken the limit on its enriched uranium stockpile that was laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal made with world powers, state-run media reported Monday. The breach threatens to kill the deal entirely and ramps up tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s decision to break the limit is a response to President Donald Trump’s move to pull out of the deal and reimpose economic sanctions on the country. European countries that are still in the accord warned Iran not to go through with its plan to exceed the limit, but Iran said it did not receive enough in trade assistance to make it back off.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to stockpile up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, which has somewhere between a 3% and 4% concentration of the fissile isotope needed to set off a nuclear reaction.

Iran's IRNA news agency quoted the country's foreign minister as confirming the breach. Reuters spoke with two sources who confirmed Iran's stockpile now exceeds that 300kg limit.

“As we announced when we said our steps would continue, the stockpile has passed 300 kg,” Reuters quoted a source as saying.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in May the country would no longer stick to the limit and gave the five world powers who haven’t pulled out of the nuclear agreement — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — until July 7 to ease the effect of U.S. sanctions.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have risen drastically in recent weeks. The U.S. has targeted Iran with sanctions after a series of attacks on oil tankers, which it blamed on Iran. Iran also shot down a U.S. drone it claimed was flying in its airspace; the U.S. responded with a cyberattack.

After the U.S. placed sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials last week, Rouhani insulted Trump.

“The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” Rouhani said. He added that the Trump administration’s call for talks were not sincere.

“At the same time as you call for negotiations, you seek to sanction the foreign minister? It’s obvious that you’re lying,” Rouhani said.

Cover: This Jan. 15, 2011, file photo, shows a part of Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. (Mehdi Marizad/Fars News Agency via AP, File).