Iran uranium stockpile still violates atomic deal: UN agency

VIENNA (AP) – Iran continues to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium far beyond the limits set in a landmark nuclear deal with world powers and to enrich it to a greater purity than permitted, the United Nation’s (UN) atomic watchdog agency said on Wednesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press that Iran as of November 2 had a stockpile of 2,442.9 kilogrammes of low-enriched uranium, up from 2,105.4 kilogrammes reported on August 25.

The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the United States (US), Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilogrammes .

The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 per cent, higher than the 3.67 per cent allowed under the deal.

Iran has openly announced all violations of the nuclear deal in advance, which have followed the decision by the US to pull out unilaterally in 2018.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran. PHOTO: AP

The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for the curbs on its nuclear programme. Since the US withdrawal and imposition of new sanctions, Tehran has been putting pressure on the remaining parties with the violations to come up with new ways to offset the economy-crippling actions by Washington.

At the same time, the Iranian government has continued to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, a key reason the countries that remain parties to the JCPOA say it’s worth preserving.

The goal of the agreement is to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, something the country insists it does not intend to do.

A widely cited analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association suggests that Iran now has more than double the material it would need to make a nuclear weapon. However, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told The Associated Press in an interview last month that his agency does not share that assessment.

Before agreeing to the nuclear deal, Iran enriched its uranium up to 20 per cent purity, which is a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90 per cent. In 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000 kilogrammes with higher enrichment, but it didn’t pursue a bomb.