U.S., E3 cry foul on JCPOA after killing it

July 7, 2021 - 21:20

TEHRAN – Iran has started the production of highly advanced uranium fuel in the latest step to accelerate nuclear research aimed at improving its radiopharmaceuticals amid soaring tensions with the United States and its European allies over a U.S. refusal to rejoin a 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

In a major announcement on Tuesday, Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharibabadi said Iran will soon produce a highly sophisticated nuclear fuel called uranium silicide fuel.

The ambassador said in a statement that Iran has informed the IAEA of its intention to produce a uranium silicide fuel pellet for the Tehran Research Reactor nine days ago and has immediately made arrangements in that regard. 

Silicide fuel is an advanced type of nuclear fuel whose technology is only available to a handful of countries. According to Gharibabadi, Iran has started R&D activities using natural uranium to produce sophisticated fuel over the past three months. “In the new process, one new fuel pellet is to be produced from 20% enriched uranium,” the Iranian diplomat said, adding, “This measure, slated to significantly improve the quality and quantity of producing radiopharmaceuticals, will turn the Islamic Republic of Iran into a pioneering country in terms of nuclear technology.”

The IAEA confirmed the Iranian move, providing technical details about the whole process. “Iran informed the Agency that UO2 (uranium oxide) enriched up to 20% U–235 would be shipped to the R&D laboratory at the Fuel Fabrication Plant in Esfahan, where it would be converted to UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) and then to uranium metal enriched to 20% U–235, before using it to manufacture the fuel,” it said in a statement, according to Reuters. 

The move drew criticism from the U.S. and its European allies, who expressed concern about the new fuel production. The three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal -France, Germany and the UK, collectively known as E3 – said they had “grave concern” about Iran producing enriched uranium metal and even accused Iran of “threatening a successful outcome to the Vienna talks,” which have been underway since April to revive the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated a previous American threat to withdraw from the talks with Iran while voicing concerns over the latest Iranian nuclear move.

The diplomatic tensions came at a delicate moment of the Vienna nuclear talks, which have hit a deadlock due to U.S. intransigence and insistence on maintaining sanctions on Iran. The last round of talks was concluded more than two weeks. At the end of the sixth round, Iran and the other negotiating partners underlined the need for tough decisions to reach a final agreement on the JCPOA. 

Following the sixth round, the U.S. and its European partners ratcheted up diplomatic pressures on Iran, urging it to make such decisions while Iran said it was not the party to make these decisions because it had already made a series of difficult decisions to preserve the tattered nuclear deal after the U.S. quit it. 

The U.S. and European calls for Iran to make tough decisions were the latest sign that they are not going to pursue constructive policies to have the deal revived in the near future. They rejected a number of Iranian demands such as giving assurances that Washington won’t renege on its commitments again once the deal is revived. Iran also brought up other demands regarding the lifting of sanctions, but most were rejected by the U.S., indicating an American lack of interest in reviving the JCPOA. 

However, the U.S. continues to blame Iran for the stumbling of talks and its nuclear measures, ignoring Iran’s sacrifices in keeping the JCPOA alive over the past three years. 
Now Washington and its European allies are crying foul at Iran’s production of uranium metal while torpedoing any diplomatic pathways to address this issue. 

Iran has made it clear time and again that it has no intention of paying the price of keeping the JCPOA alive and turning a blind eye on European inaction in ensuring its economic interests envisaged in the nuclear deal during the Trump administration. 

According to Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, if there is one party to make tough decisions on the JCPOA, it’s certainly not Iran. Instead, he said, it’s the U.S. and its European allies.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has already made tough decisions. When the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and Iran decided to stay in the JCPOA. It was Iran's big and difficult decision that led to the preservation of the JCPOA so far. Now it is the turn of the opposing parties, and according to the negotiations we had, they must decide and reach a conclusion on the revival of the JCPOA in order to reach an agreement,” Araqchi said in recent remarks to Iran’s state media. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has reiterated the same call, putting the onus of making tough decisions on the U.S. “The progress made in the Vienna talks is a fact acknowledged by all parties to the talks, although there are still important issues that largely need to be decided by the other parties, especially the United States. In fact, the finalization of the agreement to revive the JCPOA depends on the political will of the other parties to make tough decisions on their part,” he said. 

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