Iran Says Can Produce Higher Enriched Uranium in Under Two Days

ANKARA (Reuters) -
In this file photo, an Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iran said on Monday it could produce higher enriched uranium within two days if the United States quit a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers, Tehran’s Arabic language al-Alam channel reported.

“If America pulls out of the deal … Iran could resume its 20 percent uranium enrichment in less than 48 hours,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told al-Alam.

Uranium refined to 20 percent fissile purity is well beyond the 5 percent normally required to fuel civilian nuclear power plants, though still well short of highly enriched, or 80-90 percent, purity needed for a nuclear bomb.

Kamalvandi said the deal – under which Iran curbed its uranium enrichment to help ensure it was for peaceful purposes only and secured an end to financial sanctions in return – is not renegotiable, as demanded by the United States. The deal’s European signatories – Germany, Britain and France, as well as Russia and China – are committed to preserving the agreement.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, whose agency is verifying Iranian compliance with restrictions on its disputed uranium enrichment work imposed by the deal, has long called the pact a “net gain” for nuclear verification, since it has provided the IAEA with more thorough oversight of Iran. He said that any collapse of the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers would be a “great loss.”

In a speech on Monday to a quarterly meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, Amano evoked the possibility of the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), unraveling.

“The JCPOA represents a significant gain for verification,” Amano said, according to a text of his speech published by his agency. “If the JCPOA were to fail, it would be a great loss for nuclear verification and for multilateralism.”

Amano said Iran was implementing its commitments under the deal, which also lifted painful economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. He confirmed the findings of a quarterly, confidential IAEA report on Iran issued last month.

As mentioned by the confidential IAEA report, Amano also said the agency had requested clarification from Iran about its plans for nuclear-powered naval vessels, suggesting the IAEA has still not heard back from the Islamic Republic.

“The agency has requested Iran to provide further clarifications regarding its plans relevant to the development of the nuclear fuel cycle related to naval nuclear propulsion,” Amano told the closed-door meeting of 35 member states.