The international organization that monitors Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal confirmed Monday that Tehran has exceeded the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile.
“In response to media inquiries, we can confirm that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano today informed the Board of Governors that the Agency verified on 1 July that Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile exceeded 300kg of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 (or the equivalent in different chemical forms),” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement.
The IAEA’s confirmation comes after Iranian state media reported that Iran had breached the 300 kilogram limit.
The verification that Iran has breached the nuclear deal for the first time adds even greater uncertainty to an already volatile situation between the United States and Iran. Less than two weeks ago, President Trump called off a military strike against Iran at the last minute that was meant to respond to it shooting down a U.S. drone.
Under the 2015 nuclear deal — negotiated by the Obama administration and co-signed by the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China and Russia — Iran can stockpile no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.
Tehran announced in mid-June it would soon exceed that limit, upping pressure on Europe to deliver benefits from the deal to offset U.S. sanctions.
The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the accord in May 2018, reimposing harsh sanctions on Iran.
The European signatories of the deal have been working to set up a mechanism for European businesses to continue trading with Iran without facing U.S. sanctions, but Iran has said Europe’s efforts are insufficient.
Last-minute talks between Europe and Iran last week failed to convince Tehran to stay within the limits of the deal.
For now, Iran is still only enriching to the 3.67 percent limit set by the deal — enough for power plants but far from weapons-grade.
But Iran has set another deadline for Europe to deliver benefits, after which it will increase its enrichment levels. That deadline is Sunday.
Iran has said it needs 5 percent enrichment for its nuclear power plant in Bushehr and 20 percent enrichment for a Tehran research reactor.
Twenty percent is still under weapons-grade. But once it reaches that level, it takes much less time to enrich to 90 percent, which is considered weapons-grade.