According to statements by Iranian officials, Iran is developing advanced nuclear-related capabilities that could reduce the time they need to build a deliverable nuclear weapon. This has raised concerns of White House officials and nuclear experts.
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced that the Islamic Republic can now mass produce advanced nuclear centrifuges capable of quickly enriching uranium, which is the key component in a nuclear weapon. This work seems to be in violation of clauses that prohibit Iran from engaging in such activity under the the nuclear agreement.
Nuclear verification experts disclosed in a recent report that restrictions imposed by the Iran deal are failing to stop the Islamic Republic's nuclear pursuits. They said that the mass production of this equipment "would greatly expand Iran's ability to sneak-out or breakout to nuclear weapons capability.”
Calls for Trump’s administration to increase its enforcement of the nuclear deal and pressure international nuclear inspectors to demand greater access to Iran's nuclear sites have increased.
According to the report, it’s unclear if the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigated Iran's pursuit of advanced centrifuges. To verify Iran’s compliance with the deal, greater access to Iran's sites is needed.
The report comes at a time when Iran has increased its efforts to construct ballistic missiles, which violate UN accords barring such behavior.
A report by the Institute for Science and International Security says,”Iran could have already stockpiled many advanced centrifuge components, associated raw materials, and the equipment necessary to operate a large number of advanced centrifuges. The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need to determine the status of Iran's centrifuge manufacturing capabilities, including the number of key centrifuge parts Iran has made and the amount of centrifuge equipment it has procured.”
In April, Salehi stated that Tehran is prepared to mass-produce advanced centrifuges on "short notice." This work could greatly increase the amount of nuclear fissile material produced by Iran, causing concern that Iran could assemble a functional nuclear weapon without being detected.
The report claims that the issue is complicated by the lack of access international nuclear inspectors have to Iran's contested military sites.
Salehi's statement shows the "profound weaknesses in the JCPOA which include lack of inspector access, highly incomplete knowledge of Iran's centrifuge manufacturing capabilities and output, and too few centrifuge components being accounted for and monitored," according to the report.
Under the terms of the agreement, Iran is permitted to operate one advanced IR-8 centrifuge, however, Iran is believed to have assembled more than half a dozen such centrifuges, which is many more centrifuge parts than needed for the amount of nuclear work permitted under the agreement.
Also displaying an increased focus on the production of enriched nuclear materials, id that Iran is working to construct IR-6 centrifuges. ”These numbers are excessive and inconsistent with the JCPOA," according to the report. "Moreover, in light of Salehi's comments, the excessive production of [centrifuge] rotors may be part of a plan to lay the basis for mass production.” The reports adds, that Iran’s work on "any such plan is not included in Iran's enrichment plan under the JCPOA.”
The IAEA must attempt to keep tabs on any clandestine nuclear work in which Iran may be engaging, as it may be misleading the world about its centrifuge production, and although it is obligated under the nuclear deal, it still has not declared all materials related to this work.
The report concludes, "A key question is whether Iran is secretly making centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows at unknown locations, in violation of the JCPOA, and if it takes place, what the probability is that it goes without detection.” Additionally, "the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need to determine the status of Iran's centrifuge manufacturing capabilities, including the number of key centrifuge parts Iran has made and the amount of centrifuge equipment it has procured. They need to ensure that Iran's centrifuge manufacturing is consistent with the intent of the nuclear deal as well as the deal's specific limitations on advanced centrifuges. Moreover, the Iranian statement illuminates significant weaknesses in the Iran deal that need to be fixed.”
Iran's centrifuge work remains very "limited" under the nuclear agreement, according to a State Department official. "Under the JCPOA, consistent with Iran's enrichment and enrichment and [research and development] plan, Iran can only engage in production of centrifuges, including centrifuge rotors and associated components, to meet the enrichment and R&D requirements of the JCPOA," he said. "In other words, Iran's production of centrifuges and associated components are limited to be consistent with the small scale of R&D that is permissible under the JCPOA.”
The State Department official added, "The Trump administration has made clear that at least until this review is completed, we will adhere to the JCPOA and will ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements.”