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3 May, 2019 20:38

Heavy water and uranium enrichment: US imposes additional nuclear sanctions on Iran

Heavy water and uranium enrichment: US imposes additional nuclear sanctions on Iran

The Trump administration will sanction any assistance to expand Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr and ban exports of heavy water and any further uranium enrichment, the State Department has announced.

Restrictions on the Bushehr plan may impact Russia, which has been working with Iran to expand and modernize the facility.

The sanctions will apply starting Saturday, May 4, according to a statement by State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

“Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment,” Ortagus said, adding the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded Iran “never pursue plutonium reprocessing.”

The measures aim to deny Iran “any pathway to a nuclear weapon,” according to Pompeo.

Provisions for exporting excess heavy water, limited uranium enrichment and expanding the civilian power plant in Bushehr were included in the 2015 nuclear deal – also known as the JCPOA – signed by Iran, the US, China and four European nuclear states.

However, the US unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA, in May 2018, and reintroduced nuclear sanctions against Tehran in November.

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Pompeo’s announcement makes it clear that the US still expects Iran to abide by the deal, even though the US does not.

Sanction waivers on shipping the surplus heavy water to Oman and exporting enriched uranium over the 300-kilogram limit were key waivers included in the JCPOA. With them revoked, Iran will have trouble disposing of enriched uranium.

“Revoking these waivers, you’re basically almost preventing the other JCPOA parties from providing the peaceful nuclear technical assistance that is the basis of Iran’s nuclear commitments,” Kenneth Katzman, an Iran expert at the Congressional Research Service, told Bloomberg on Friday.

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Five other JCPOA sanction waivers, which were expiring Saturday, were renewed for 45 to 90 days, instead of the customary 180. They apply to Iran's nuclear facilities in Arak, Fordow and Tehran.

The Trump administration has imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, with the intent to reduce exports to zero, and declared the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a “terrorist organization,” ratcheting up tensions with Tehran forty years after the Islamic revolution overthrew the US-backed monarchy.

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