Iranian officials this week announced plans to begin enriching uranium to 20% purity at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant – an underground bastion that was supposed to have been transformed into a research and development site. The announcement, which is designed to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the Joint…
The announcement, which is designed to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), comes less than two months after the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (Iran blames Israel).
“We resumed 20% enrichment, as legislated by our Parliament. IAEA has been duly notified,” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. “Our remedial action conforms fully with Para 36 of JCPOA, after years of non-compliance by several other JCPOA participants. Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL.”
Iran is now planning to produce 260 pounds of 20% enriched uranium per year and says it will prevent IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities if oil and banking sanctions are not removed by February.
The announcement coincides with the one-year anniversary of a Trump-ordered strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani’s assassination.
“Those who had a role in this assassination and crime will not be safe on Earth,” warned Iran’s judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi. “Do not presume that someone, as the president of America, who appeared as a murderer or ordered a murder, may be immune from justice being carried out.”
The JCPOA, negotiated primarily by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program (including uranium enrichment) in exchange for the return of billions of dollars in frozen assets. When Trump withdrew from the treaty in 2018, sanctions were reimposed and Iran began enriching uranium higher than the 3.67% limit outlined in the treaty.
Uranium that is enriched to 3.5% purity can be used to make reactor fuel for commercial nuclear power plants. Uranium that is enriched to 20% purity can be used in research reactors. Uranium that is enriched to 90% purity can be used to create world-ending nuclear bombs.
In July 2018, Iran claimed to have stockpiled 950 tons of uranium – enough to run 190,000 centrifuge machines. Experts say that Iran has the materials to create a nuclear bomb in less than one year.
Iran’s behavior cannot be “explained in any way except as continued realization of its intention to develop a military nuclear program,” argues Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. “Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Iran insists it nuclear program is peaceful and says it will stop enriching uranium if all JCPOA signatories return to full compliance. Signatories include: Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the EU.