Representatives of Iran and the world powers working to save the nuclear deal with Tehran are trying to do everything possible to preserve the landmark 2015 agreement.

In this Wednesday, Aug 26, 2020 file photo, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, speaks to the media after returning from Iran at the Vienna International Airport.
In this Wednesday, Aug 26, 2020 file photo, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, speaks to the media after returning from Iran at the Vienna International Airport. (Ronald Zak, / AP)

Iran has increased its stockpile of enriched uranium in violation of limitations set in a landmark deal with world powers, but has begun providing access to sites where it was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material and possibly conducted nuclear-related activities.

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This came after Iran allowed the UN nuclear watchdog to inspect one of the two sites it agreed last week to grant access to after a protracted standoff, while Tehran's stockpile of enriched uranium has risen further, quarterly reports by the agency said on Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries that Iran had stockpiled 2.32 tonnes of low-enriched uranium as of Aug 25, up from 1.73 tonnes last reported on May 20.

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Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, it allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms.

The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the JCPOA. It said Iran’s stockpile of heavy water — which helps cool nuclear reactors — had decreased, however, and is now back within the JCPOA limits.

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The nuclear deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for the curbs on its nuclear program. President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal unilaterally in 2018, saying it needed to be renegotiated.

Since then, Iran has slowly violated the restrictions to try and pressure the remaining nations to increase the incentives to offset new, economy-crippling US sanctions.

Keeping deal alive

Those countries maintain that even though Iran has been violating many of the pact’s restrictions, it is important to keep the deal alive because the country has continued providing the IAEA with critical access to inspect its nuclear facilities.

The agency had been at a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s, which Iran had argued inspectors had no right to visit because they dated to before the deal.

But after IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi personally visited Tehran in late August for meetings with top officials, he said Iran had agreed to provide inspectors access.

In its report, the IAEA said inspectors had already visited one site and would visit the other this month.

It didn't detail their findings.

The ultimate goal of the JCPOA is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, which Iran insists it does not want to do.

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Still, since the US withdrawal, it has stockpiled enough enriched uranium to produce a weapon.

According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need roughly 1.16 tonnes of low-enriched uranium — under 5 percent purity — and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90 percent purity, to make a nuclear weapon.

Before agreeing to the nuclear deal, however, Iran enriched its uranium to up to 20 percent purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90 percent. In 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7.72 tonnes with higher enrichment, but it didn’t pursue a bomb.

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Source: AP