Key points in Iran nuclear deal with world powers
Iran struck a historic nuclear deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers. Here are some key points in the agreement and why they matter for Iran and the international community:
HALTING URANIUM ENRICHMENT ABOVE 5 PERCENT
This would keep Iran’s enrichment level well below the threshold needed for weapons-grade material, which is more than 90 percent enrichment. Uranium enriched to 5 percent is adequate to make fuel for Iran’s lone energy-producing reactor in Bushehr on the Persian Gulf coast. For Iran, the ability to keep its enrichment program is a critical issue. Iran’s leaders insist they maintain self-sufficiency over the entire nuclear cycle from mining uranium to making nuclear fuel.
‘NEUTRALIZE’ IRAN’S STOCKPILE OF 20 PERCENT ENRICHED URANIUM
This level of enrichment is within several steps of reaching weapons grade. Eliminating the stockpile eases Western concerns that Iran possibly could move quickly toward a nuclear weapon. Iran can either convert the 20 percent uranium into reactor-ready fuel, which effectively blocks it from further enrichment. Or Iran can dilute the material to levels below 5 percent enrichment. Iranian officials have said the country has a sufficient stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium for long-term operations of its research reactor, which runs at the higher-level uranium and produces isotopes for medical treatments and other uses. Allowing Iran to use the stockpile for domestic purposes is an important political takeaway for Tehran. Iranian leaders had balked at demands to ship the stockpile out of the country.
NO NEW CENTRIFUGES
This effectively freezes Iran’s enrichment capacities for the next six months. Centrifuges are used to turn concentrated uranium into nuclear fuel. Iran, however, is allowed to keep its two main enrichment facilities in operation. Iran’s government, which negotiated the deal with world powers in Geneva, would have faced huge backlash from hard-liners at home if either of the labs were forced to shut down.
SUSPEND WORK AT THE ARAK REACTOR
The planned Arak reactor in central Iran is a “heavy water” plant, which means it uses a molecular variant of water as a coolant and can run on non-enriched uranium. It also produces a higher degree of plutonium byproduct, which could be extracted and potentially used in weapons production. Iran’s agreement not to build a plutonium reprocessing facility deals directly with the weapons program concerns. It also could clear the way for future agreements to resume work on the reactor.
IRAN’S PLEDGE TO ADDRESS U.N. CONCERNS, INCLUDING THE PARCHIN MILITARY SITE
The specific mention of the Parchin military base near Tehran touches on a longstanding impasse between Iran and the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency. U.N. inspectors want to revisit the site to investigate suspicions of past explosive tests that could have applications in nuclear bomb designs. Iran denies the claim. Iran has said further inspections are possible, but also wanted to impose restrictions that limits on public disclosures by the U.N. agency. The deal could open the way for greater Parchin inspections.