Iran says it will reach allowed enriched uranium limit in 10 days

The reactor building Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran in October 2010. (AFP pic)

DUBAI: Iran said on Monday it would breach internationally agreed curbs on its stock of low-enriched uranium in 10 days – a move likely to strain already high tensions with Washington – but it added European countries still had time to save a nuclear deal.

US-Iran tensions are worsening following accusations by the administration of US President Donald Trump that Tehran carried out attacks last Thursday on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital oil shipping route. Iran has denied having any role.

“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300kg limit,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on state TV. “There is still time … if European countries act.”

Tehran said in May it will reduce compliance with the nuclear pact it agreed with world powers in 2015, in protest at the United States’ decision to unilaterally pull out of the agreement and reimpose sanctions last year.

The deal aimed to extend the amount of time it would theoretically take Iran to produce enough fissile material for an atomic bomb from several months to a minimum of one year.

The accord caps Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67% or its equivalent for 15 years.

The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe Iran had a nuclear weapons programme that it abandoned. Tehran denies ever having had one.

Kamalvandi added: “There is still time for the Europeans … But the Europeans have expressed indirectly their inability to act. They should not think that after 60 days (deadline set in May by Iran), they will have another 60-day opportunity.”

Iran has repeatedly criticised delays in setting up a European mechanism that would shield trade with Iran from US sanctions in an effort to save the nuclear deal.