TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran said Monday it will surpass from June 27 its uranium stockpile limit set under the nuclear deal with world powers, turning up the pressure after the U.S. walked away from the landmark pact last year.
"Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time… we will pass this limit,” the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at a press conference.
The move "will be reversed once other parties live up to their commitments,” he added, speaking from the Arak nuclear plant southwest of Tehran.
On May 8, President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal.
He said the move was in retaliation for the unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the accord a year earlier, which saw Washington impose tough economic sanctions on Tehran.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated ever since, with Washington bolstering its military presence in the region.
Iran has pledged to go even further in scaling down nuclear commitments by July 8 unless remaining partners to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — help it circumvent U.S. sanctions and especially enable it to sell its oil.
Under the agreement, Iran pledged to reduce its nuclear capacities for several years and allow international inspectors inside the country to monitor its activities in return for relief from sanctions.
The deal set a limit on the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges, and restricted its right to enrich uranium to no higher than 3.67 percent.
It also called on Iran to export enriched uranium and heavy water to ensure that the country’s reserves would stay within the production ceiling set by the agreement, yet recent U.S. restrictions have made such exports virtually impossible.
According to Rouhani, his ultimatum last month was intended to "save the (deal), not destroy it”.
The three European parties to the accord created a trade mechanism meant to bypass U.S. sanctions, but their attempt was dismissed by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei as a "bitter joke.”
If world powers do not step up to help Iran, the atomic energy organization spokesman warned further steps could be taken.
"They range from going to 3.68 percent to any other percent according to the country’s needs,” said Kamalvandi.
"One scenario is that we will define 3.67 for the Bushehr power station, which needs 5 percent or if we define for the needs of the Tehran Research Reactor, it will be 20 percent. Various scenarios have been envisaged."
"A point to Europeans: if the first step took time to be done, other steps, especially increasing enrichment… need no more than a day or two,” said Kamalvandi.
The official said as soon as they carry out their commitments, things will naturally go back to their original state.
Kamalvandi sounded downbeat, though, saying "the Europeans have expressed indirectly their inability to act."
"There is still time for European countries, but if they want more time it means that they either can’t or don’t want to honor their obligations,” he said.
"They should not think that after 60 days (deadline set in May by Iran), they will have another 60-day opportunity," the official added.
The spokesman took dozens of domestic and foreign reporters for a tour of the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility in Khondab region in central Iran, 190 km south of Tehran.
Under the JCPOA, Iran is permitted to keep up to 130 tonnes of heavy water at present and up to 90 tonnes once its redesigned and rebuilt Arak reactor is commissioned.
Kamalvandi said authorities are still debating whether to "redesign or revive” the Arak reactor.
The U.S. Department of Energy bought several batches of heavy water from Iran, but President Donald Trump halted the purchases and ordered other countries to follow suit after he reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Kamalvandi said, "In the mind of Trump, if one does not buy heavy water from us, the facility will automatically shut down, but this is not the case because we have both domestic and (foreign) market utilization."
Iran expects its heavy water stockpile also to surpass 130 tonnes in the next two and half months if "no new market" is available, the official said. The country, he said, may convert its surplus heavy water to better value-added products.
"Although we do not want to abandon the commitments we have made in the past and give up the markets we have found, it's possible that with the stocks exceeding 130 tonnes, we may not export them as raw material and instead export them with added value."