News Analysis |
Iran has announced on Tuesday that a new enrichment facility has been built in Natanz nuclear site which will enhance its ability to enrich uranium. Iran has stated that the enrichment will be kept according to the 2015 nuclear deal. After it became part of the nuclear agreement, Iran’s program is under the constant scrutiny of international watchdog for nuclear non-proliferation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). During the high time when Iran was trying high-grade industrial-level enrichment for the purpose of making a nuclear bomb, Natanz facility was running at the capacity of 20% enrichment which was cut down to 5% after the nuclear agreement.
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, told state television that the center’s construction had been “in line with our safeguard commitments but not publicly announced.” A spokesman for the Iranian nuclear agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said a letter had been sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency explaining the action. He also told the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency that Tehran would increase its capacity to produce uranium hexafluoride, a feedstock for centrifuges.
After it became part of the nuclear agreement, Iran’s program is under the constant scrutiny of international watchdog for nuclear non-proliferation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Iran was finding it very difficult to run its economy when it was in the process of making a nuclear bomb a few years back. Skyrocketing unemployment and inflation due to crippling economic sanctions, especially an embargo on the oil exports, rendered Iran’s economic wheel stuck in one place. It eventually led to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defeat to current President Hassan Rohani in the presidential elections of 2013. Rohani throughout his campaign vouched for economic reforms to put the country back on track in terms of public welfare. Coming into power, he started negotiating a deal with United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China.
The agreement was called a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. In July 2015, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges. Under the JCPOA, it was limited to installing no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026 – 15 years after the deal’s “implementation day” in January 2016. Iran’s uranium stockpile was reduced by 98% to 300kg (660lbs), a figure that must not be exceeded until 2031.
The announcement of another facility, especially at this point, could also be an indication for the remaining signatories of the deal that if the agreement finally unravels, Iran will pursue high-grade uranium enrichment.
It must also keep the stockpile’s level of enrichment at 3.67%. By January 2016, Iran had drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed at Natanz and Fordo, and shipped tonnes of low-enriched uranium to Russia. In addition, research and development must take place only at Natanz and be limited until 2024. No enrichment will be permitted at Fordo until 2031, and the underground facility will be converted into a nuclear, physics and Technology Centre. The 1,044 centrifuges at the site will produce radioisotopes for use in medicine, agriculture, industry, and science.
Everything was going according to the deal and as per IAEA, Iran was abiding by every clause of the agreement. The twist in the tale came when President Trump decided to put his election rhetoric of pulling USA out of JCPOA because it was “the worst deal in the history” in his opinion. Trump’s European allies, especially France and Germany, tried their best to convince him otherwise but Trump succumbed to the Zionist lobby and backtracked from the agreement. Rest of the signatories of the pact vowed to continue even without the US being part of it.
As soon as Iran signed the agreement in 2015, European companies found the opportunity and rushed into the Iranian market with expectations of high returns on investment. Automakers like Daimler and PSA Peugeot Citroën linked up with Iranian partners to sell vehicles. Siemens of Germany struck a deal to deliver locomotives. Total of France began a project to explore offshore natural gas. But these companies have gradually started to wrap up their direct or portfolio investment after the US decided to go back to pre-2015 phase. On Monday, the French group PSA, the maker of Peugeot and Citroën cars, which produces 440,000 vehicles a year in Iran, started closing its joint ventures with local auto manufacturers, though PSA said it would seek a waiver from the United States to maintain that production level.
The 1,044 centrifuges at the site will produce radioisotopes for use in medicine, agriculture, industry, and science.
The announcement of another facility, especially at this point, could also be an indication for the remaining signatories of the deal that if the agreement finally unravels, Iran will pursue high-grade uranium enrichment. With Iran back on its traditional track of nuclear ambition, the world will have much more to worry about than just North Korea.