Iran now aims to enrich uranium to 90%

Just days ago Tehran threatened to enrich uranium by 20%, exceeding the 3.67% agreed in the nuclear pact
Archival photography. View of the nuclear water reactor in Arak, Iran, on 23 December 2019

PHOTO/WANA  -   Archival photography. View of the nuclear water reactor in Arak, Iran, on 23 December 2019

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI), has stated that the country can enrich uranium to 90% purity, which is sufficient to make nuclear weapons.

In an interview on national television on 7 January, Behrouz Kamalvandi said that Iran has the capacity to produce uranium in various percentages of purity up to 90%.

"Our achievements are so great that we can easily enrich uranium in different percentages up to 90%," Kamalvandi told state television. "If enrichment above 20% is required in some areas, the AEOI can do it," Kamalvandi said.

This is intended to put pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to negotiate quickly on the nuclear agreement (JCPOA). Iran's latest seizure of the MT Hankuk Chemi came just as a South Korean diplomat was due to travel to the Islamic Republic to negotiate the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets now frozen in Seoul.

An Iranian government spokesman said on 4 January that the Shahid Almohammadi complex at the Fordow underground nuclear facility had begun the process of producing uranium at a rate of up to 20%. 

This exceeded the 3.67% commitment of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA). However, the 20% share is still much lower than the 90% target for nuclear weapons. 

Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, confirmed that Parliament had approved Iran's continued enrichment of uranium to 20% purity. Furthermore, Teheran also followed the appropriate process of notifying this plan to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The outgoing US president, Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran's financial network and oil export industry, thus putting pressure on Teheran to return to the negotiating table.

In response, the ayatollahs' regime reduced a number of commitments in the agreement, including raising the uranium enrichment limit.