Iran increases production of low-enriched uranium
June 21, 2019
(JNS)—Iran has increased its uranium enrichment since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, warned the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday.
However, while IAEA chief Yukiya Amano informed reporters about this development, he noted, “I did not say Iran is implementing [the JCPOA], but I did not say Iran is not implementing either.”
Newsweek reported that “Amano specifically said that the country had increased its production of low-enriched uranium, the type of uranium that is used for producing nuclear energy. Low-enriched uranium has between 3 and 4 percent concentration of the isotope U-235. Weapons-grade uranium, however, is around 90 percent enriched. Still, Iran shipped 98 percent of its enriched uranium out of the country as part of the nuclear deal, even the low-enriched uranium.”
Monday’s development echoed former IAEA deputy Olli Heinonen’s warning last week that Iran could enrich enough uranium for a nuclear bomb within six to eight months.
“Iran is actually weaponizing uranium enrichment without making a weapon,” he said on Israel’s Army Radio, adding that based on his “perhaps back-of-the-envelope” estimate, Iran could acquire an enriched nuclear weapon in six to eight months “if they put in their maximum effort.”
Meanwhile, the United States, as part of its maximum pressure campaign against Iran, is considering sanctions against the Special Trade and Finance Institute, the regime’s counterpart to the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, or Instex, a financial mechanism, created by the United Kingdom, France and Germany to evade U.S. economic penalties on Tehran, reported Bloomberg on Monday, citing a senior administration official.
The Special Trade and Finance Institute is an extension of Iran’s central bank, which is already under U.S. sanctions.
Barbara Slavin, who leads the Atlantic Council’s Future Iran Initiative, told JNS that these developments are “not surprising as it is exactly what Iran said it would do after the US announced a complete embargo on Iran’s sale of oil.”
“Iran has not yet breached the limits set in the Iran nuclear deal of 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium but will continue to increase its stockpile in part to pressure the European Union to operationalize a trading mechanism with Iran. The deadline Iran set is July 7. So the ball is now in Europe’s court,” she continued. “We also need to see if the Trump administration will sanction the Iranian entity created to trade with INSTEX, the E.U. vehicle.”