A Vienna-based Iranian nuclear scientist says Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recent statements about boosting the country’s enrichment capacity were made to please domestic audiences.
Former IAEA consultant Behrouz Bayat said in an interview with Radio Farda on May 5 that Khamenei’s remarks about a dramatic increase in Iran’s enrichment capability within the framework of JCPOA were made in order to boost morale among his supporters.
“Khamenei wanted to pretend he was standing firm against international pressures,” Bayat told Radio Farda’s Azadeh Assadi.
“Khamenei tells domestic audiences that he is resisting what he always calls ‘the enemy,’ but he makes it clear to foreign audiences that he wants the enrichment to be limited to the framework of JCPOA,” he said.
“This means Khamenei hasn’t decided yet whether to pull out of JCPOA,” he added.
Bayat stressed that “there was nothing new in Khamenei’s remarks, although it appeared he was threatening to withdraw from the nuclear deal.”
Khamenei said repeatedly that he wanted the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) to work within the framework of JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
On Monday, Khamenei ordered the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) to start enriching uranium at a 190,000 SWU level starting June 15, “within the framework of JCPOA,” Iran’s nuclear deal with the West.
A separative work unit, abbreviated as SWU, is the standard measure of the effort required to separate isotopes of uranium (U235 and U238) during the enrichment process at nuclear facilities. 1 SWU is equivalent to 1 kg of separation work.
Bayat told Radio Farda that there was nothing new in the figure. “This is what Iran is allowed to do based on JCPOA, but it is not currently feasible because, in order to do this, Iran needs 190,000 centrifuges, while it cannot have more than 5,060 centrifuges based on JCPOA,” he said, adding that “Iran could move toward that target after 15 years.”
He added that 190,000 SWU can provide fuel for Iran’s only nuclear power plant.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tuesday that it takes Iran up to two years to reach uranium enrichment at the 190,000 SWU level called for by Khamenei.
Salehi added on June 5 that a letter was handed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna to inform it of the decision. But he also said Iran will continue adhering to the 2015 nuclear deal, and that the country's nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.
Salehi also said that “in the meantime, work will continue in Natanz to develop infrastructure for new centrifuges,” adding, “We have plans, but they are not against JCPOA.”
He said the infrastructure includes “a centrifuge assembly line, which takes two months to be built.”
“However,” Salehi added cautiously, “this does not mean the mass production of centrifuges.”