Richard Ratcliffe: UK needs to be ‘braver’ about challenging Iran
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The move is a breach of Iran’s deal with six world powers – China, France, Germany, Russia, the US and the UK – signed in 2015 in return for the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran . Under the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA), Iran is only permitted to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent purity.
The JPCOA saw Iran agree to operate no more than 5,060 of its oldest and least efficient IR-1 centrifuges and to cease enrichment at the underground Fordo facility.
The country also agreed to allow international inspectors to visit their facilities, and to hold no more than 300kg (660lbs) of low-enriched uranium – a 98 percent reduction of Iran’s previous nuclear stockpile.
Highly enriched uranium, which has a purity of 20 percent or more, is typically used in research reactors.
Weapons-grade uranium is 90 percent enriched or more.
Iran has started operating a cascade of advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its Fordo facility (Image: Getty)
The move is a breach of Iran’s deal with six world powers (Image: Getty)
Earlier this week, Israel shared intelligence with the US and several European allies suggesting that Iran is preparing to enrich uranium to 90 percent purity.
Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the JPCOA in 2018 and imposed fresh sanctions on the country.
Since July 2019 Iran has increasingly breached the pact’s restrictions.
In addition to operating advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its Fordo facility and enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity, the country has also started to produce smaller quantities of 60percent-enriched uranium.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (Image: Getty)
Under the JPCOA, Iran is only permitted to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent purity (Image: Getty)
However, Iran has continued to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor its nuclear programme and says the steps are easily reversible.
The US and Iran have resumed talks in Viena to prevent the collapse of the nuclear deal, with officials discussing the possible return of the US to the JPCOA.
Joe Biden has said he is willing to lift sanctions on Iran if it reverses the breaches of the pact.
Diplomats are under pressure to negotiate a solution because of the significant advances Iran has made in its uranium enrichment programme, which has been seen as a step towards the production of a nuclear bomb.
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NATO defence spending by country (Image: Express)
However, Iran insists that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.
In October, head of Iran's atomic energy organisation Mohammad Eslami told state television that it had amassed more than 120kg of 20 percent enriched uranium.
He said: "We have passed 120 kilograms.
“We have more than that figure.
Joe Biden has said he is willing to lift sanctions on Iran if it reverses the breaches of the pact (Image: Getty)
“Our people know well that [western powers] were meant to give us the enriched fuel at 20 percent to use in the Tehran reactor, but they haven't done so.
"If our colleagues do not do it, we would naturally have problems with the lack of fuel for the Tehran reactor."
The Tehran reactor was originally supplied to Iran by the US in the 1960s to produce radioisotopes for use in medical treatments and agriculture.
It has since been modified to run on 20 percent enriched uranium, which the country began producing in 2012.
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