What Happened: In keeping with a timeline announced in May by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran confirmed June 17 that the country would exceed the limits on low-enriched uranium imposed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal within 10 days, Tasnim News Agency reported. The spokesman also outlined more potential steps in the second phase of Iran’s reduction of its JCPOA commitments, saying that it could halt the redesign work on the Arak heavy water reactor and could increase the level of uranium enrichment to between 5 or 20 percent.
Why it Matters: Rouhani announced last month that Iran would suspend its commitments to possess a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. Rouhani also gave the European Union, which remains in the nuclear deal, a 60-day ultimatum — which expires July 7 — to protect Iran’s interests in the JCPOA or Iran would move onto a second phase of reducing its JCPOA commitments. Violating the JCPOA in a more significant manner could draw a forceful U.S. response.
Background/Context: The United States chose not to extend sanctions waivers that allowed Iran to export excess heavy water and swap the low-enriched uranium for yellowcake. In essence, this left Iran with the choice of violating the JCPOA or shutting down enrichment and heavy water production activities. A return to the original Arak reactor design could help Iran produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Iran Is Inching Away From the Nuclear Deal. What Happens Now? (May 8, 2019)
EU: Europe Moves to Get Around U.S. Sanctions on Iran (Jan. 31, 2019)
Back Under U.S. Sanctions, Iran Looks for a Plan B (July 23, 2018)