Iranian parliament orders increase in uranium enrichment

04 November 2020

The Iranian parliament yesterday approved a bill requiring the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) to produce at least 120 kg of 20% enriched uranium annually at the Fordow nuclear site, FARS news agency reports. AEOI is required to start this process within two months and store the enriched uranium inside the country.

Iranian parliament (Image: Fars news agency)

On 5 January, Iran took its latest step in reducing its commitments to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development. The E3 - France, Germany and the UK - then triggered the JCPoA's dispute resolution mechanism.

In June, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution calling on Iran to cooperate fully in implementing its NPT Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol. In August, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi held talks with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the AEOI, as well as with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, on access for IAEA inspectors to the country's nuclear sites.

Grossi's visit to Tehran followed the US Administration's request to the UN Security Council to initiate the 'snapback' mechanism of the Iran nuclear deal. This mechanism allows a party to the agreement to seek the re-imposition against Iran of the multilateral sanctions lifted in 2015 in accordance with resolution 2231.

According to the Iranian parliament's new bill, the AEOI must also: increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month; start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment and storage of materials up to "proper purity levels" within three months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz; transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow; start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March, 2021 (the end of the Iranian calendar year); and return the 40-megawatt Arak heavy water reactor to its "pre-JCPoA condition" by reviving the calandria of the reactor within four months from the date of the adoption of this law.

The news agency adds that the government is required to suspend the "nuclear deal-based regulatory access" beyond the Additional Protocol within two months after the adoption of this law based on Articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal, after three months from the adoption of this law.

If Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not "back to normal", the government is required to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol. If, after three months from the adoption of this law, the nuclear deal parties "return to fulfill their undertakings", the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's "reciprocal action", the report said.

"Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPoA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions," the report said.

"Tehran has particularly been disappointed with the failure of the three European signatories to the JCPoA - Britain, France and Germany - to protect its business interests under the deal after the United States' withdrawal," it added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News