Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on 18 August that Iran’s nuclear programme and activities were fully in line with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its Safeguards commitments. Khatibzadeh noted in a statement that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been supervising Iran’s nuclear activities and that Tehran had notified the IAEA of its measures in advance.
He was responding to the latest report from the IAEA to member states on Iran’s activities, which was leaked to Reuters. The report said Iran had used 257 g of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235 in the form of UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) to produce 200 g of uranium metal enriched up to 20% U-235, The IAEA said this was step three in a four-step plan by Iran. The fourth includes producing a reactor fuel plate. The report also said Iran had launched a second cascade of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility, enriching uranium to 60%. According to Reuters, in addition to a cascade of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at Natanz, Iran now has a second cascade of 153 IR-4 centrifuges.
In remarks published on the ministry's website, Khatibzadeh referred to the upgrading of Iran's nuclear activities as "compensatory measures" taken within the framework of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Under the JCPOA between Iran the P5+1 group of countries (the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany), Iran had undertaken to limit its nuclear development in return for the lifting of sanctions. However, Iran began to gradually roll back on the restrictions imposed by the JCPOA after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions in 2018, including oversight by the IAEA. US President Joe Biden has been seeking to reinstate the JCPOA, and indirect talks began in April. The last round of talks ended in June with no date set for their resumption, pending the inauguration of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s new President, replacing Hassan Rouhani.
Khatibzadeh said the upgrading was a response to the "widespread violation" by the USA of the JCPOA and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, as well as the non-compliance of JCPOA parties. As long as the USA and other JCPOA parties do not implement the nuclear agreement "fully and unconditionally," he said, Iran will maintain its nuclear programme on the sole basis of its own "needs and sovereign decisions" and within the framework of its NPT safeguards commitments. In July, former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran's capacity was sufficient to enrich uranium to 90%. Previously, Iran had said its decision to enrich uranium to 60% was made in response to Israel's sabotage of its Natanz facility in April. Rouhani had stressed that the enrichment would be carried out for peaceful purposes and under the supervision of the IAEA.
Earlier in August, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran’s achievements in the nuclear industry were unique. He was speaking during the launching ceremony of key projects, including the opening of three uranium mines in central Iran. Salehi said Iran is now also capable of producing over 100 tons of uranium yellowcake from low-grade domestic resources. This helps to support Iran’s civilian nuclear activities, which need yellowcake, including power-production, nuclear medicine and agricultural research, amid lack of access to international markets, despite signing the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The AEOI, along with completing major infrastructural projects such as the development of the national nuclear fuel cycle, began developing nuclear power plants with construction of second and third units at Bushehr NPP with $10 billion dollars in finance from state funds.” He added that the AEOI had also begun the construction of Iran’s Centre for Production and Development of Radiomedicines as well as a major ion therapy centre, without reliance on state funding. He said the projects are now 85% compete.
Salehi also mentioned the project to design and produce dry storage casks for used nuclear fuel noting that Iran needed these casks to store used fuel from the Bushehr NPP, but none were unavailable because of the sanctions. He said successful indigenisation of the 120-ton storage casks was among the most complicated national engineering projects and represented the first time Iran had managed to forge and cast a product with a weight more than 60 tons.
Khatibzadeh said on 9 August that the government of President Ebrahim Raisi, who was formally sworn in as President on 5 August, will definitely continue the nuclear talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the JCPOA. Speaking to reporters in a virtual press conference, Khatibzadeh said Iran had never withdrawn from the negotiations. He explained that Iran is undergoing a democratic transition of power with the administration of President Raisi taking office, and the executive teams involved in the JCPOA talks would change in this process.
Khatibzadeh said President Raisi had made it clear that the anti-Iran sanctions must be lifted but reaffirmed that Iran would stop taking its “remedial measures” as soon as a solution is achieved for the return of the US to its JCPOA commitments. However, Washington has been demanding that Tehran must reduce its uranium enrichment and stockpiling activities ahead of any easing of sanctions and is also trying to amend the terms of the 2015 agreement. Khatibzadeh said the US needs to change its mentality and consider the realities on the ground. “They (Americans) know and we know as well that the (US) policy of maximum pressure has failed, and Iran will not accept anything less than the JCPOA.”