Iran still expanding enriched uranium stockpile, says UN watchdog
Iran continues to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium in violation of limitations set in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but has begun providing access to sites where the country was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency said on Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than 10 times the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
As of August 25, Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4kg (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, up from 1,571.6kg (3,464.8 pounds) reported on May 20.
Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia.
Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8kg (447 pounds).
The IAEA also reported that Iran has been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the JCPOA. It said Iran’s stockpile of heavy water had decreased.
The deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
But in 2018, President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal, saying it needed to be renegotiated.
Since then, Iran has slowly scaled back against the restrictions in an attempt to pressure the remaining nations to increase incentives to offset new, economy-crippling US sanctions.
Those countries maintain that even though Iran has been violating many of the pact’s restrictions, it is important to keep the deal alive because the country has continued providing the IAEA with critical access to inspect its nuclear facilities.
The agency had been at a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s, however, which Iran had argued inspectors had no right to visit because they dated to before the deal.
Last week, Iran announced it would allow the IAEA access to the two sites, following a visit to Tehran by the organisation’s Director General Rafael Grossi.
The IAEA said Iran had granted its inspectors access to one of the two sites.
“Iran provided agency inspectors access to the location to take environmental samples,” a separate IAEA report seen by the AFP news agency said on Friday.
“The samples will be analysed by laboratories that are part of the agency’s network,” it added.
The report said an inspection at the second site will take place “later in September 2020 on a date already agreed with Iran”.