On June 17, 2019, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it will scale back its compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – that the United States withdrew from in 2018. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Service, the government will increase stocks of enriched uranium and the heavy water required to make more enriched uranium at its Arak heavy water site.
Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors to slow down neutrons so they are more likely to react with uranium-235, where the element will capture neutrons in a fissile manner. uranium-238 cannot sustain a nuclear reaction, but uranium-235 can. Heavy water reactors create plutonium as a waste material, plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.
Iran has been making consistent nuclear advances since the reviled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office.
The Islamic Republic also announced it would begin enriching uranium again as a result of the U.S. leaving the 2015 deal. This means Iran will begin creating more of the uranium-235 required to sustain nuclear reactions, using the heavy water in its reactors. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpiles of medium-enriched Uranium and reduce its stock of low-enriched Uranium by 98 percent. It also agreed to limit its centrifuge production and use while limiting its future enrichment to uranium at on 3.67 percent.
Iran also agreed to limit the possibilities of nuclear proliferation by converting other sources of uranium enrichment and heavy water production to other purposes.
The Arak Heavy Water Facility.
Until now, other global powers have agreed with Iran ending its participation in some areas of the deal. Those powers are still signatory to the agreement. The most recent developments, the continuation in heavy water production and the increased production of enriched uranium, were not agreed upon by the other signatories to the deal. Iran warned the world in May 2019 that it would take these steps unless the sanctions on Iran were lifted as per the terms of the agreement.
It has been true to its word in all areas regarding the deal – and its dismantling – so far.