Iran Prepares to Boost Uranium Enrichment

June 6, 2018

On June 4, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directed the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to increase its uranium enrichment capacity. “The West's dream regarding the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) will not come true, and the Iranian nation and government will not tolerate being under sanctions while limited in the nuclear field,” he said in a televised speech marking the 29th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death. The supreme leader did not specify a timeline for ramping up the nuclear program but said Iran would stay within the JCPOA framework for now.

On the same day, Iran notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that it would boost its uranium enrichment capabilities. On June 5, AEOI chief Ali Akbar Salehi and AEOI spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi outlined Tehran’s plans. Salehi said Iran could announce the opening of a new center for centrifuge production as early as June 6 but emphasized that it was only taking preparatory steps. “If the JCPOA collapses - please pay attention, if the JCPOA collapses - and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble [a] new-generation of centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the JCPOA,” he said. “For now, we will continue our activities within the framework of the JCPOA, as stressed by the Leader, but at a faster pace, so that those tasks that we had planned to complete years later will be finished in a shorter span of time,” Kamalvandi added.

 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that it was dangerous of Iran to approach a red line, but he acknowledged that its actions were still within the bounds of the JCPOA. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran was "foolishly squandering its resources." The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian, European and U.S. officials on these developments.

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

"The West's dream regarding the JCPOA will not come true, and the Iranian nation and government will not tolerate being under sanctions while limited in the nuclear field. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran must make the necessary arrangements to reach 190,000 SWU (separative work units) in the framework provided by the JCPOA, and it must begin some other preparations that Mr. President [Hassan Rouhani] has ordered effective tomorrow."

—June 4, 2018, in a speech marking the 29th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death

 

Chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi

“We cannot abide by the JCPOA and at the same time bear the brunt of U.S. sanctions.”

“Yesterday, the Leader issued a decree ordering the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to carry out some activities and speed up some measures which are within the framework of the JCPOA and not outside of the agreement.”

“Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful and based on the Leader’s fatwa (religious edict). According to this fatwa, manufacturing and restoring nuclear weapons is haram (forbidden) for our country, and we always consider ourselves to be abiding by this principle, and we will never violate it.”

“The principle of abiding by our commitments, as already highlighted by our Leader, has always been of great importance for us at the AEOI.”

“Nuclear technology is a dual-use technology. Wherever developed, to the public opinion, it can be used for both peaceful and non-peaceful purposes. We are after a peaceful use of this technology, but unfortunately the West is turning it into a point of weakness for us. This technology can be used in areas of industry, agriculture, and medicine.”

“The directions issued by President Rouhani, in a letter to the AEOI, are in three areas, including the manufacturing of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride), a factory for UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride), and the construction of new center for manufacturing centrifuges.”

“If conditions allow, maybe tomorrow night at Natanz, we can announce the opening of the center for production of new centrifuges.”

But that “does not mean that we will start assembling the centrifuges.”

These moves “do not mean the negotiations [with Europe] have failed.”

“If we were progressing normally, it would have taken six or seven years [to increase our capabilities], but this will now be ready in the coming weeks and months.”

“If the JCPOA collapses - please pay attention, if the JCPOA collapses - and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble new-generation of centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the JCPOA.”

—June 5, 2018, at a press conference (translations via Mehr News Agency, BBC, and The Guardian)

 

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi

“In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, we informed the entity that we are going to enhance the required capacities to produce UF4 and UF6 gases and undertake preliminary steps to manufacture and assemble the factory to make centrifuge rotors.”

“Within the framework of the JCPOA we were supposed to reach at least 190,000 SWU by the end of a 15-year plan; something which was in accordance with Leader’s previous remarks. To our predictions we were able to reach 250,000 SWU by 15 years and considering the recent words of the Leader we are obliged to speed up the measures to reach these goals in a shorter time.”

“The Leader’s remarks are meant to speed up measures where potentials and capacities are needed to get prepared immediately. For instance, we had agreed to keep our produced centrifuges at a limited number under the JCPOA, and start making new machines with a defined rate from the eighth year of the JCPOA in practice.”

—June 5, 2018, at a press conference (translation via Mehr News Agency)

“If the Americans were committed to the agreement, we would have taken these measures with patience at a much slower speed. The reason we have decided to speed up the process is because of the Leader’s order.”

“For now, we will continue our activities within the framework of the JCPOA, as stressed by the Leader, but at a faster pace, so that those tasks that we had planned to complete years later will be finished in a shorter span of time.”

—June 5, 2018, to reporters (translation via Mehr News Agency)

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

 

French President Emmanuel Macron

“I call on all sides to stabilize the situation and not give into escalation which will lead to one thing: conflict.”

—June 5, 2018, during a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian

“I think this initiative is not welcome, it shows irritation [of Tehran]. It is always dangerous to approach a 'red line.' But, as for now, the initiative that has been undertaken to increase capacities on uranium enrichment remains fully within the bounds of the Vienna agreement… What was announced yesterday remains fully within the framework of the agreement.”

—June 6, 2018, speaking to Europe 1 radio