In its most significant suspension of commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran’s Rouhani Government has authorized a return to the enrichment of 20% uranium.
Bowing to pressure from Parliament, the Government adopted the “Strategic Action for Lifting of Sanctions” on Monday.
Before the agreement in July 2015 with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, Germany, China, Russia, and France), Iran had produced the 20% uranium, which can potentially be further enriched to a military grade of more than 90%.
Responding to the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the agreement and its comprehensive sanctions, the Government had broken the deal’s limit on stocks of 3.67% uranium, raised enrichment to 4.5%, and installed advanced uranium centrifuges. But it had refrained from the crossing of the 20% line.
However, Parliament responded to the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in late November with the bill mandating an escalation in activity. The Government objected that its authority was being usurped, and the Guardian Council initially referred the legislation back to the Majlis.
But the revised bill was accepted by the Guardian Council, forcing the Government’s hand.
“Preliminary Activities Have Begun”
Within two months of the law taking effect, the Atomic Energy Organization must submit a comprehensive report on implementation of the 20% provision. Within a year, there must be a stock of 120 kg (264 lbs.) of 20% uranium.
The organization must install and operate 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in three months and 1000 advanced IR-6 centrifuges within a year.
The organization’s head, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Sunday that “preliminary activities for designing modern 20% fuel have begun”.
With the advent of the Biden Administration, Iranian hopes for a US return to the 2015 deal have increased. The expectation has bolstered a currency which lost half of its value in months, sinking to a low of more than 300,000:1 v. the US dollar.
President Hassan Rouhani has said the US can return to the agreement “within an hour”. However, he has ruled out any renegotiation of provisions.
The European participants in the deal — the UK, France, and Germany — have called for talks to cover Iran’s missile program and an extension to the terminal dates in the deal.