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Iran Says It Is Breaking Nuclear Enrichment Limits

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Iran's nuclear energy agency says the country has broken limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The agency reported on Monday that Iran began enriching uranium to 4.5 percent, passing the 3.67 percent limit set under the deal. The international agreement was meant to restrain the country's nuclear activities.

The higher level of uranium enrichment is the second time Iran has violated the agreement. Last week, Iran said it had produced more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium and announced plans to continue making more.

Uranium enriched to 5 percent is reported to be enough to produce fuel for a nuclear energy center. However, it is far below the purity needed to make a nuclear weapon. For such weapons, a purity level of about 90 percent is required.

In recent weeks, Iran said several times that it would surpass limits set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran's government is trying to pressure other countries, especially those in Europe which signed the agreement, to do more to help Iran economically.

The United States, China and Russia also signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week that Iran was prepared to enrich "any amount that we want" beyond the 3.67 level. He also announced that Iran would restart construction at the Arak heavy water reactor. That nuclear center was closed as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Spokesman for Iran's atomic agency Behrouz Kamalvandi speaks in a press briefing in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, July 7, 2019. Iran's deputy foreign minister says that his nation considers the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to be a 'valid document.'
Spokesman for Iran's atomic agency Behrouz Kamalvandi speaks in a press briefing in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, July 7, 2019. Iran's deputy foreign minister says that his nation considers the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to be a 'valid document.'

A spokesman for Iran's nuclear agency suggested that Iran may consider enriching uranium to 20 percent. The Associated Press reported his comments.

The official also suggested that Iran might add to its current number of centrifuges -- the devices used to increase the purity of uranium.

US president again warns Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Iran on Sunday to "be careful" about its activities.

Trump spoke soon after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote that: "Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment for Iran's nuclear program." Pompeo's comments appeared on the social networking service Twitter. He went on to say that, if Iran had nuclear weapons, it would be an even bigger threat to the world.

The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran last year. At the time, Trump said that the deal was doing little to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Trump administration then placed additional restrictions on Iran.

France, Britain and Germany have been trying to save the deal by creating a system by which Iran can carry out limited trade. However, Iran's recent activities make even that attempt unlikely to succeed.

Earlier this month, an Iranian oil tanker carrying over 2 million barrels of oil was seized in waters near the British port of Gibraltar. Reports say the oil was meant to go to Syria, which is under European Union sanctions.

I'm Mario Ritter Jr.

Ken Bredemeier reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

enrich – v. to improve the quality of something

construction – n. the process of building something

standard – n. a level that is considered to be acceptable.

sanctions – n. an action taken or order given to force a country to obey international law

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