Is there more to Iran's 'strategic' decision to enrich uranium?

Iran has enriched uranium from 20 percent to 60 percent over the last year, leading to concern about its drive toward a nuclear weapon.

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in April 2008, shortly before its centrifuges were destroyed by the Stuxnet virus. Why is responsibility now being taken for attacks and involvement being admitted with bluster and bravado? (photo credit: PHOTO BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in April 2008, shortly before its centrifuges were destroyed by the Stuxnet virus. Why is responsibility now being taken for attacks and involvement being admitted with bluster and bravado?
(photo credit: PHOTO BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium has more than doubled which is a strategic action for the nuclear industry in Iran,  according to what the country’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami told lawmakers in Tehran on Saturday, Iran International and Al-Mayadin news reported. 

Eslami has another agenda, he wants a legal obligation to keep enriching uranium.

Referencing a bill sent to parliament in 2020, he said that "the implementation of the Strategic Enrichment Measure Law has led to the country's enrichment level being more than doubled in the entire history of this industry." He also said that nuclear energy production could lead to significant economic savings for the country.

In this sense, he referenced the ostensibly peaceful impacts of the nuclear program, calling nuclear energy "effective in reducing the consumption of fossil and non-renewable fuels, as well as in reducing environmental problems." 

Iran has enriched uranium from 20 percent to 60 percent over the last year. This has led to concerns about Iran’s possible drive toward a nuclear weapon. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has increased beyond 300kg. There are thought to be some 50kg of uranium enriched beyond 60 percent, according to the report by Mayadin which is sympathetic to Iran.  

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi holds a news conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of his agency's 35-nation Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/LISA LEUTNER)IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi holds a news conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of his agency's 35-nation Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/LISA LEUTNER)

The article still pays lip service to the idea that Iran could return to its commitments under the 2015 JCPOA Iran Deal if a new agreement is reached with the West. Iran’s backing of Russia and other issues have kept a new deal from being reached.  

The IAEA is supposed to visit Tehran on December 18

“At the invitation of Iran, an IAEA technical team will be in Tehran on Sunday 18th December 2022 aiming at addressing the outstanding safeguards issues previously reported by IAEA Director General Grossi,” the agency said in an emailed statement which was reported by CNBC. “Earlier on Dec. 14, Iranian state news agency Irna reported IAEA officials would visit Iran in the coming days. It cited Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as expressing hope that this interaction would remove obstacles and ambiguities.”

The recent updates about Iran’s nuclear decisions are important because they show that Iran views the nuclear program as not only a strategic asset, but that it has toned down the rhetoric about using the program to threaten others. Preparing for the December 18 visit Iran appears to want to reduce tensions. This is because the regime has been facing protests and also sanctions over its support for Russia.