On July 3rd, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the country’s Arak heavy water nuclear reactor would resume its previous activities from July 7th, if the other signatories under the Iran Nuclear deal fail to uphold their part.
In a warning to the the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany fail to act., Rouhani said the following:
“But from July 7 onward with the Arak reactor, if you don’t operate [according to] the programme and timeframe of all the commitments you’ve given us, we will return the Arak reactor to its previous condition.”
“Meaning the condition that you say is dangerous and can produce plutonium,” he said.
“We will return to that unless you take action regarding all your commitments regarding Arak.”
He further said that Iran’s enrichment level would no longer be 3.67% and would be increased.
“On July 7, our enrichment level will no longer be 3.67 percent. We will put aside this commitment. We will increase beyond 3.67 percent to as much as we want – as much as is necessary, as much as we need,” Rouhani said.
He urged the EU and the US to go back to the negotiating table.
“Go back to understanding, to respecting the law and resolutions of the UN Security Council,” he said. “Under those conditions, all of us can abide by the nuclear deal.”
On the same day, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Agnes von der Muhll urged Iran not to abandon the deal.
“Putting [the deal] into question will only increase the already heightened tensions in the region.”
That’s why France with its European partners have asked strongly that Iran reverse the excess enrichment without delay and refrain from further measures that undermine its nuclear commitments, Von der Muhll said.
On July 4th, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi responded to his French counterpart.
“We will fulfill our commitments under the JCPOA exactly in the same way you do,” he said.
The Arak heavy water nuclear reactor was to be redesigned under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The Arak, or IR-40 nuclear reactor is a Heavy Water nuclear reactor located in northeastern Iran. At its conception in 2003, Arak was intended to be a large-scale producer of Heavy Water for Iran, the US Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance reported.
“This was concerning because of Heavy Water’s usefulness in producing and enriching weapons grade Plutonium. Its design origins are murky, with reports of foreign experts contributing to the construction; Russian design firm Nikiet reportedly assisted with the design of Arak, before withdrawing from the project.”
Furthermore, there is no evidence that Iran ever planned to use the reactor to produce plutonium.
“Iran allowed the IAEA access to the facility in 2009, but refused to provide access to detailed plans; this made the plants purpose unclear. However, upon its completion, Arak was thought to be able to produce around 9kg of weapons-grade Plutonium annually. However, in order to retrieve this material, Iran needed a spent fuel processing facility, which they do not possess.”
As per the Iran Nuclear Deal, the reactor’s core was removed and filled with concrete:
“Arak’s decommissioning as a possible producer of Plutonium was an important aspect of the Iranian nuclear deal. In January of 2016, the core of the reactor was removed and filled with concrete. Additionally, the members of the P5+1 have agreed to assist Iran in redesigning the facility to produce and research isotopes for medical purposes.”
Following President Rouhani’s announcement, China said that it was fully committed to the Iran Nuclear Deal and was working on redesigning the Arak heavy water reactor as per the agreement.
“Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry stressed that China categorically rejects U.S. “zero-tolerance policy” on Iran oil sales, and is willing to do everything it can to maintain legitimate economic and trade relations with the country and safeguard economic interests of Chinese companies,” Chinese state outlet Xinhua reported.
According to Fu, Iran had sent a “loud and clear” message that it plans to stick to the JCPOA, and thus China would go forward “at full speed” at redesigning the reactor so as to “minimize its plutonium production and avoid production of weapons-grade plutonium.”
On June 29th, the EU announced that its trade mechanism that is aimed at circumventing US sanctions on Iran, dubbed INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchange), was currently processing the first transactions.
“France, Germany and the United Kingdom informed participants that INSTEX had been made operational and available to all EU member states and that the first transactions are being processed,” reads an excerpt of the statement published on the official website of the European Union.
The statement also underlined the importance of complying to the deal by all sides, “in view of recent concerning statements and developments”:
“In view of recent concerning statements and developments, participants recalled the key importance of continued full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides. At the same time, participants recalled that the lifting of sanctions is an essential part of the agreement and reviewed their respective commitments in this regard. They also took stock of respective efforts aimed at mitigating the negative impact of US withdrawal and re-imposed US sanctions.”
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