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Iran reopens nuclear plant and threatens more uranium enrichment if nuke deal falls apart

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the United Nations on Sept. 18, 2017. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)
June 29, 2018

Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency announced Wednesday that a nuclear plant that had been sitting idle for the past nine years has now been reopened.

Tehran in recent weeks has prepared to increase its uranium enrichment efforts as the remaining European members of the Iran nuclear deal struggle to keep it together, Newsmax this week reported.

Following the United States’ withdrawal of the nuclear deal earlier this year, European countries have been tasked with saving the accord as a means of hindering Iran’s nuclear efforts while at the same time offering better terms that encourage Iran to participate.

However, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains skeptical that any deal can be reached, and over the last month has ordered the AEOI (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran) to begin preparations to upgrade uranium enrichment capacity.

On Wednesday, the nuclear plant received uranium ore for the first time in nearly a decade as preparations for relaunching the facility began.

The UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) factory is part of the Isfahan uranium conversion facility, according to AEOI.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations nuclear watchdog that enforces Iran’s nuclear efforts, was also informed of the AEOI’s “tentative” plans to resume production of UF6.

For now, Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts are still in line with the original 2015 nuclear agreement that allows the country to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent (weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90 percent). A limit on the amount of enriched uranium hexafluoride Iran can stockpile also remains in place at 300 kilograms, or 660 pounds.

Under the original 2015 nuclear deal, Iran was required to restrict its uranium enrichment capabilities for the purpose of research and development only.

In exchange, the participating countries offered sanctions relief and economic cooperation.

President Trump had long called the deal “flawed,” “one-sided” and “one of the worst deals in history,” and ultimately followed through with his campaign promise to withdraw from the agreement.

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction: that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie,” the President said back in May as he announced the United States’ withdrawal.

The U.S. is set to implement new sanctions on Iran in the coming months, as well as any countries conducting business with Tehran.

The Trump Administration has asked asked all countries to gradually reduce and eventually terminate any kind of currency flow to Iran, imposing a strict deadline of November 2018.

Washington has also threatened secondary sanction on countries and companies that continue trade with Iran after the deadline.