Iran Continues to Break Commitments to 2015 Nuclear Deal

Henry Gerecke, Contributor

Following the assasination of their top nuclear scientist, the Iranian parliament has continued to encourage the development of their nuclear program. Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told the media the process of enriching uranium to 20% U-235 (the most suitable isotope for nuclear fission) had started at Fordow, an enrichment plant that primarily uses the refined uranium for research and technology production. 

In 2009, Iran had failed to report the construction of this facility to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and only did so once it was discovered by Western intelligence agencies. In 2015, Iran stated the plant would transition to medical and research purposes, and that it would not be refining uranium for upwards of 15 years.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) allows Iran to enrich uranium up to 3.67%, and requires Iran stop all uranium production at Fordow. Iran foreign minister Javad Zarif implied that these actions are a way to test the limits of the nuclear deal and to call attention to other non compliant countries, stating on twitter, “Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL.” 

Weapons grade uranium is usually considered to be at or above 90% U-235. While it may seem that Iran is far away from reaching this objective, the Nuclear Threat Initiative states that the final jump from 20% to 90% requires less than one tenth of the total effort of the uranium refinement process. With their history of pushing and breaking the limits of the nuclear deal, it is likely Iran will have the ability to produce nuclear weapons much earlier than previously anticipated.