International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and Iranian technicians shut down the uranium enrichment process at Iran’s Natanz nuclear power plant in January 2014 as a preface to the coming JCPOA nuclear deal. Iran now says it has resumed enrichment, and might start restricting access to inspectors. (Kazem Ghane/AFP/Getty Images)

UN: Iran Amassing Heavy Water in New Breach of Nuke Deal

Iran has violated another tenet of the 2015 nuclear deal by stockpiling more than 130 metric tons of heavy water, according to a report sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency to its member states. Heavy water can be used in certain types of reactors to produce isotopes that in turn can be used to develop nuclear weapons, thus potentially providing Iran with another pathway to the bomb. Over the past two months, the Islamic Republic has vastly expanded its nuclear work, increasing twelvefold its daily production of enriched uranium – from 450 grams (1 pound) to some 5.5 kilograms (12 pounds) – and to a level of 5 percent purity, exceeding the 3.67% limit imposed by the nuclear agreement. Tehran has also renewed operations at its controversial Fordow facility, built deep inside a mountain and therefore believed to be invulnerable to attack. Finally, Iran, with Russia’s help, recently broke ground on a second nuclear reactor at an installation in Bushehr, and unveiled advanced centrifuges into which it has started injecting uranium gas. The moves come amid widespread unrest in Iran, whose interventionism in both Iraq and Lebanon has sparked protests in those nations. The mullahs are also contending with harsh US economic sanctions. Their decision to accelerate the country’s nuclear program is widely construed as an effort to pressure the Europeans, Russians and Chinese to implement a long-stalled financial mechanism that would allow for continued non-dollar trade with the Islamic Republic.

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