Iran issued an ultimatum to Europe on Monday, warning that unless the bloc did more to circumvent crippling U.S. sanctions, Tehran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium would exceed the limits agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal by the end of the month.
Tehran announced it has increased low-enriched uranium production fourfold and would exceed the limit of 300 kilograms by June 27. Iran will now enrich uranium “based on the country’s needs” Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran's nuclear agency, said Monday.
Kamalvandi said Iran needs 5% enrichment for its nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr and it also needs 20 percent enrichment for a Tehran research reactor. Anything up to 20 percent is considered low enriched.
Weapons-grade uranium is typically 90 percent enriched. Tehran could theoretically use 20 percent enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon, but so much of it would be needed that it would not be practical.
The announcement was made during a news conference at the Arak heavy water reactor facility and broadcast live on state TV. It was timed to coincide with a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday morning.
Iran’s economy has been in an economic freefall since the Trump administration withdrew from the pact in May and reimposed economic sanctions.
Last month, Iran warned the other signatories — France, Germany, Russia, China, and the U.K. — that it would restart enriching high-level uranium if they didn’t fulfill their promises under the 2015 pact.
Iran on Monday called on the European signatories to do more, saying that it was willing to reverse the new measures if France, Germany and the U.K. were willing to help the country circumvent U.S. sanctions.
“I think til now the Europeans have not done their part and they've wasted a lot of time,” Kamalvandi said during the press conference. “They have given us a lot of good words but not deeds.”
The move will likely add to tensions in the region after the U.S. and regional ally Saudi Arabia blamed Tehran for a series of oil tanker attacks. European ministers in Brussels Monday said they needed more information before making a call on who was responsible.
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)