Iranian nuclear official: Iran will surpass low-enriched uranium level in June

Kamalvandi said Tehran will increase uranium enrichment levels "based on the country's needs". (File photo: AFP)

A spokesman for Iran's atomic agency says the country will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days.

Behrouz Kamalvandi made the comment in a news conference carried live on Iranian state television on Monday.

"Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilogrammes reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time we will pass this limit," Iran's atomic energy organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at a press conference broadcast live.

Kamalvandi said Tehran will increase uranium enrichment levels "based on the country's needs," adding that the country may export heavy water and that this would not be in violation of the nuclear deal.

He spoke to local journalists at Iran's Arak heavy water facility.

The spokesman added that there is still time for european countries to “help protect iran from us sanctions… but they need to act not talk.”

His comments come in the wake of suspected attacks on oil tankers last week in the region that Washington has blamed on Iran and amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US, a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America for the nuclear deal.

Kamalvandi acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium.

Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. Kamalvandi said that given Iran’s recent decision to quadruple its production of low-enriched uranium, it would pass the 300-kilogram limit on Thursday, July 27.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said last month that Iran still remained within its stockpile limits. The Vienna-based agency declined to comment Monday on Iran’s announcement.

Kamalvandi said Iran needs 5% enrichment for its nuclear power plant in southern Iranian port of Bushehr and it also needs 20% enrichment for a Tehran research reactor.
The nuclear deal had limited Iran to enriching uranium only to 3.67%, which is enough for power plants and peaceful purposes.

But after America’s pullout and escalated sanctions, Tehran set a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with better terms for the deal, or it would take additional steps away from the accord, likely meaning it would boost enrichment further.

Kamalvandi enforced that stance, saying that Tehran will increase uranium enrichment levels “based on the country’s needs.”

Enriching a supply of uranium means boosting its concentration of the type of uranium that can power a nuclear reaction. That type, or isotope, is called U-235. Enrichment basically means stripping away atoms of another isotope, called U-238. Boosting its purity to 20% means removing 22 more unwanted isotopes per atom of U-235, while going from there to 90% purity means removing just four more per atom of U-235. Ninety percent is considered weapons-grade material.

That means going from 20% to 90% is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran reached its nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, agreeing to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since President Donald Trump took office, the US has steadily stripped away at the accord. Trump pulled America out of the deal in May 2018.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:04 - GMT 11:04
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