Iran ramps up uranium production, accelerates nuclear threshold

(CNBC) – Iran is ramping up its uranium output, a provocative step that threatens to further inflame simmering tensions with the United States and deepen regional conflict following a series of dangerous escalations in the Middle East.

Iranian production of low-enriched uranium has recently increased fourfold, putting the nation on a path to exceed limits on nuclear materials set out in a 2015 agreement with world powers, a spokesperson for Iran’s atomic energy agency told Iranian news outlets on Monday.

The supplies in question are not enriched to a level suitable for weapons development. Still, the increased output threatens to further erode the Iran nuclear deal and destabilize a region that provides much of the world’s energy supply.
The comparison here is they were already going 55 miles per hour and heading towards a busted bridge. And so what the [Atomic Energy Organization of Iran] is saying is that they threw a brick on the accelerator.
The stockpiling also raises concerns about the proliferation of nuclear materials, said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

“We are woefully underappreciating the seriousness of this crisis,” she said.

President Donald Trump announced he would pull the U.S. out of the nuclear accord and restore wide-ranging economic sanctions against Iran just over a year ago. The other parties to the deal — China, Russia and the European Union — condemned the U.S. withdrawal and have attempted to preserve the agreement, which put limits on Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran continued to abide by the terms of the deal until Washington sharply escalated tensions last month.

In April, the Trump administration designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization and announced it would tighten sanctionsin a bid to drive Iran’s oil exports to zero. Shortly after the new U.S. sanctions policy took effect this month, Iran said it would stop complying with key parts of the nuclear deal.

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