Iran’s nuclear program chief said Sunday that his country can begin producing weapons-grade nuclear material in just four days if the nuclear deal with foreign powers falls through, and insisted that international inspectors will not be given access to closed Iranian military sites.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said that while Tehran prefers to keep the landmark nuclear agreement intact the Fordo site can quickly begin ramping up uranium enrichment.
“We can produce 20% (enriched uranium) at Fordo in four days but we don’t want the nuclear deal to collapse,” Salehi told reporters, according to an English translation of his comments provided by the semi-official Fars news agency. He spoke to media after a joint press conference with the visiting director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, in Tehran.
Amano also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. At the press conference he said that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal.
Salehi also maintained that Iran’s military sites will remain off-limits to nuclear inspectors.
“We have spoken about the section T and our positions have been clearly declared,” he said, referring to the clause in the agreement that deals with inspections at Iranian facilities. “The section T does not include any peculiar inspections. When the section T was being compiled, these considerations were taken into account but unfortunately, the other side is after its own interpretations.”
In July US officials said the Trump administration was pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that Tehran struck in July 2015 with world powers.
The inspections are one element of what is designed to be a more aggressive approach to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While the Trump administration seeks to police the existing deal more strictly, it is also working to fix what US President Donald Trump’s aides have called “serious flaws” in the landmark deal that — if not resolved quickly — will likely lead Trump to pull out.
Earlier this month US President Donald Trump decided to not recertify the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, saying the agreement had failed to curb Iran’s missile program and destabilizing activities in the Middle East.
The deal was signed by Iran and five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany — establishing controls to prevent Tehran from developing an atomic bomb before the deal’s expiration in 2025.
While Trump — and Israeli officials — have been very critical of the deal, the other partners have all indicated that they intend to uphold the pact.
An IAEA report released last month had also affirmed Iran’s compliance with the program, which froze some of Tehran’s nuclear activities.
In August Salehi made a similar threat about Iran’s ability to restart uranium production. According to Israeli media reports, Iran needs about 240 kg (529 lb) of 20% enriched uranium to produce one atom bomb. IAEA reports in 2012, at a time when the nuclear deal was still being negotiated, found that Iran produced about 30kg (75 lb) of 20% enriched uranium during a period of three months.
Under the terms of the deal Iran agreed to water down any uranium it possessed to below 5% purity.