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Iran continues to exceed cap on highly enriched uranium stockpile, UN watchdog says

Iran continues to exceed cap on highly enriched uranium stockpile, UN watchdog says

A UN atomic watchdog said Tuesday that Iran continues to bolster its stockpile of highly enriched uranium despite exceeding the cap set under a 2015 accord meant to restrict the government’s nuclear arsenal, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The U.S. pulled out of the deal in 2018 under then-President Trump. The Iranian government has countered by violating the limits placed on its nuclear program.

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Context: Tehran is only allowed to retain 202.8 kilograms of uranium under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which relaxed economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for adherence to restrictions on its nuclear program. The deal was meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Driving the news: Iran has roughly 2441.3 kilograms in its total stock of uranium as of Aug. 30, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential quarterly report to member states on Tuesday, per AP. The number was higher at 3241 kilograms on May 22.

  • The IAEA estimates that Tehran’s stock of uranium has been enriched to up to 60% fissile purity at 10 kilograms, marking an increase of 7.6 kilograms since May.

  • Iran’s arsenal of uranium enriched to up to 20% fissile purity is now an estimate of 84.3 kilograms, an increase of 62.8 kilograms from three months prior.

What they’re saying: The agency’s efforts have been “seriously undermined” since February after the Iranian government refused to give inspectors access IAEA monitoring equipment, IAEA said.

  • IAEA’s confidence in properly assessing nuclear activities will continue to fall “unless the situation is immediately rectified by Iran.”

  • A temporary deal allowing the IAEA to monitor some Iranian nuclear sites was originally set to expire in May. Iran and the IAEA agreed to a temporary extension that expired on June 24.

  • IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossis has said he is willing to travel to Iran to discuss the matter with the country’s newly elected government, according to AP.

The big picture: The U.S. had hoped to reach an agreement on returning to the 2015 accord before hardliner Ebrahim Raisi took office. But six rounds of talks failed to produce tangible results and led Iranians to suspend negotiations.

  • Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have tried to preserve the accord since the U.S.’s departure.

  • President Biden has signaled an openness to rejoining the deal.

Go deeper: New Iranian foreign minister hints at nuclear deal approach

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