Iran’s Nuclear Program is Reaching Dangerous Levels – Will Resolution Be Brokered Before it’s Too Late?

  • It is clear Iran is methodically walking away from its obligations under The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
  • Iran is launching another nuclear reactor in Arak, the capital of the Markazi Province in Iran.
  • The most dangerous stage of JCOA non compliance will be announced by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani himself on November 7, 2019.

Iran’s first Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri Kouhshahi attended an annual meeting organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). An 18th meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of Member States of the SCO was held Saturday in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. The SCO, or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai. Iran is not an official member of the SCO but very interested in joining. He was observed having great interest in reciprocal agreements with Uzbekistan.

It is clear Iran is methodically walking away from its obligations under The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal), an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 together with the European Union. Russia and China do not seem to be objecting to Iran’s non-compliance actions to the JCPOA.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced Iran’s self reliance on uranium enrichment components. The AEOI is the main Iranian government agency responsible for operating nuclear energy and nuclear fuel cycle installations in Iran. The AEOI was involved in formerly undeclared nuclear activities including enrichment facilities at Fordow and Natanz.

Moreover, Iran is launching another nuclear reactor in Arak, the capital of the Markazi Province in Iran. In the 2011 census, its population was 526,182 and 160,761 families. This city is nicknamed the Industrial Capital of Iran. The nuclear reactor is able to produce up to 25 tonnes of heavy water, which also can be exported.

Heavy water is a form of water that contains two atoms of the hydrogen isotope deuterium, which are larger than the atoms of the common hydrogen-1 isotope that are in normal water. Heavy water is commonly used in nuclear reactors, where it is used as a ‘neutron moderator.’ Essentially, they slow down neutrons passing through it so that it may more readily create uranium-235, rather than uranium-238. The reactor will be fully completed by 2021.

Trump backed out of the JCPOA on May 8, 2018. It was brokered under former US President Barrack Obama. This summer Iran started partially to non comply with JCPOA. Hence, every two months Iran will be reducing its compliance. The first stage was to remove the cap on the 300kg nuclear fuel as per the agreement.

In the second stage, announced by AEOI on July 8, 2019, Iran uranium enrichment began reaching 4.5% from the 3.67%. As per the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, uranium comes in a few different forms (or “isotopes”). All of them have the same number of protons (92) but a different number of neutrons. By far, the most common such isotope in nature is uranium-238, which has 146 neutrons. On Earth, this isotope makes up 99.3% of any sample of naturally occurring uranium.

Additionally, uranium-235 (making up just about 0.7% of any sample of natural uranium and containing 143 neutrons), does tend to start nuclear chain reactions. Those neutrons then cause other nuclei to split, releasing more neutrons for a self-sustaining “chain” reaction that emits enormous amounts of energy. This is the type of uranium that is suitable for making nuclear bombs. Therefore, Iran enriching uranium-235 at 4.5% means Iran is capable of making nuclear bombs and is a huge threat on a global scale. There are only two stages left for Iran to be completely out of the JCOA.

Interestingly, Russia and China claim last year’s withdrawal by US President Trump from JCOA was in violation of UN Security Counsel Resolution 2231 that endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the nuclear program of Iran. It sets out an inspection process and schedule while also preparing for the removal of United Nations sanctions against Iran.

The main reasons behind Iran’s withdrawal are the US sanctions. Currently, $150 billion in Iranian bank accounts have been frozen due to sanctions.

Another concern is a continuation of the nuclear project in Fordow, where an underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) is enriching uranium 20 miles (32 km) northeast of the Iranian city of Qom. The Fordow village is a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base. Iran’s Mehr News Agency claims the facility is working with double speed in comparison to last year. The Mehr News Agency is an Iranian news agency headquartered in Tehran, owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization.

Prior to JCOA the plant had 750 centrifuges and now has 1,044 centrifuges. You can put the gas into a centrifuge and spin it up. The centrifuge creates a force thousands of times more powerful than the force of gravity. Because the U-238 atoms are slightly heavier than the U-235 atoms, they tend to move out toward the walls of the centrifuge. The U-235 atoms tend to stay more toward the center of the centrifuge.

The most dangerous stage of JCOA non compliance will be announced by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani himself on November 7, 2019 as per Mehr News. It was announced in October during the press conference that centrifuges IR7, IR8 and IR9 will be operational in the near future. Iran’s Long-Term Centrifuge Enrichment Plan: Providing Needed Transparency report that came out this Spring outlines the plan.

At this point, the situation needs to be mediated by a third party before it can reach dangerous levels. Iran’s nuclear program is a serious threat and without an amicable resolution, it could reach volatile levels. It would be wise to engage other nations in the dialogue. Thus far, French President Emmanuel Macron was not able to mediate any plausible resolution that would be enforceable in these circumstances.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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