This announcement is a clear breach of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in which Iran agreed to “refrain from any uranium enrichment” at Fordow until 2031. Furthermore, under the nuclear deal, Iran committed to convert the facility into a nuclear, physics and technology learning centre and consequently was permitted to maintain 1,044 centrifuges spinning without uranium hexafluoride gas there.
In the a written statement in response to Rouhani’s announcement, the Foreign Secretary, Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab, said: “Iran’s latest actions clearly contravene the deal and pose a risk to our national security. We want to find a way forward through constructive international dialogue but Iran needs to stand by the commitments it made and urgently return to full compliance.”
Enriched uranium is a critical component for both nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons, but the 2015 JCPOA restricts Iran’s enrichment to 3.67%, a percentage sufficient for nuclear power, but not nuclear weapons. In July however, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that this cap had been exceeded.
Rouhani’s announcement comes a day after the head of Iran’s nuclear energy program said the country had doubled the number of advanced centrifuges in operation.
Concerns amongst the international community about Iran’s nuclear ambitions have heightened due to Tehran’s continued steps away from the JCPoA since July 2019, when the IAEA confirmed that the permitted 300kg cap of low enriched uranium (3.67%) had been exceeded. Just days later, Iran announced it had enriched uranium to 4.5% purity and had the ability to raise it to 20%, despite the JCPoA limit. Most recently, last month, the spokesperson for the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee announced plans to limit access for international inspectors to Iran’s nuclear sites.
The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Rt. Hon. Dr Andrew Murrison MP, has condemned Iran’s actions over recent months as a “catalogue of failures by Iran to respect international law, norms and practices”.