Nuclear accord with Iran - Steps taken and key issues
Nuclear accord with Iran – steps taken and key issues
Question - The conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims is spurring a confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Discuss the recent steps taken to reach a nuclear accord with Iran and the key issues underlining the same.
Steps to Reach Nuclear Accord with Iran
• The Iran nuclear programme has been placed under limits so that there is no escalation of atomic weapons.
• US, Iran and 5 other world powers have announced limits on Iran’s nuclear programme and have emphasised the attainment of a comprehensive agreement within 3 months.
• The joint statement between the US, Iran and the 5 other nations is a decisive step following a decade of negotiations. Foreign Minister of Iran also issued the joint statement affirming the agreement.
• The 7 nations will now commence with the writing of the final accord’s text
• Several agreed upon restrictions on Iranian enrichment of material can be used for energy production or nuclear warheads
• Iran will now not be able to produce weapons grade plutonium following the accord
The basic issues underlying the nuclear accord with Iran are as follows:
• Goal of negotiations is an arrangement wherein Iran will need a minimum of one year to produce adequate fissile material for a single atomic weapon- this is referred to as break out time. Fissile material includes highly enriched uranium or plutonium
• Another issue is the duration of the deal. US has said Iran will have to accept limits on its nuclear programme for close to 10 years. This is a compromise as the US wanted 20 years and Iran wanted 8 years
• Uranium enrichment is another issue involving the nuclear accord. Iran wanted to keep all its uranium enrichment centrifuges which are machines that are used for purification of uranium for use as fuel in power plants or weapons; this includes 10,000 operations centrifuges out of nearly 20,000 while US wanted several hundred. Currently, the Iranian side is talking about 9,000 centrifuges while western officials are pegging it at 6,000
• Research and development is another area where the accord is facing complications; research and development into advanced centrifuges is the focus of Iran; It has been negated by the US
• Western powers also want Iran to dismantle a heavy water reactor located in Arak that could bring about a yield of significant qualities of plutonium; While the Arak reactor will not close down, Iran has agreed to produce less plutonium so that the amount generated would not be significant. Iran has also agreed to stop pursuing technology for extracting plutonium from spent fuel
• Another issue is Fordow, an underground enrichment plant that has been aimed to be converted into an R&D plant by Iran. Western powers would want the site to be converted so that it is in no way related to enrichment
• Uranium stockpiles are an important issue as less uranium means more centrifuges. Iran wanted to enrich 2.5 tonnes per year, but it settled for half a tonne while Western officials said more than 250 kg per year should not be produced
• Sanctions are another thorny problem as far as the nuclear accord is concerned. Speed of lifting sanctions is another key issue. While the US is rooting for gradual removal of sanctions, Iran wants completely immediate removal of sanctions
• Western powers have also said Iran should agree to UN IAEA investigation into past nuclear activities pertaining to the construction of weapons while Iran is not acquiescing to this
• A deal will also entail monitoring framework. Iran however, wants to reject Western demands for unrestricted inspection powers for IAEA
Facts and Stats
• Iran has contemplated a nuclear accord in discussion with 6 other nations: Britain, France, China, Germany, Russia and the US
• Deal will limit the nuclear activity of Iran to the Natanz plant and reduce the count of centrifuges operating from 19,000 to over 6,104
• Iran has also agreed to not construct additional facilities for uranium enrichment for another 15 years
• Countries have also agreed to elaborate mechanism for any of the parties, if they return to previous practices and went back on agreed upon terms and conditions
• Sanctions pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programme will be suspended following confirmation of Iran’s compliance by IAEA