U.S. Ends Sanctions Waivers for Iran Nuclear Projects
The Trump Administration announced that it would end waivers – or exemptions from U.S. sanctions – allowing British, Chinese and Russian companies to work at three Iranian nuclear sites. The work focused on ways to contain or limit Iran’s ability to use its nuclear program to build a bomb. The foreign projects were part of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Foreign companies involved were given 60 days to wind down activities on three projects—or face U.S. sanctions.
The projects include:
- Work by Britain and China to help Iran redesign the heavy water reactor at Arak into a light water reactor so that it cannot produce sufficient plutonium to fuel a nuclear weapon.
- Russian supplies of uranium – enriched to only 20 percent – to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.
- Russian export of Iran’s scrap (residue) and spent fuel from the research reactor.
- The three projects, along with several others, were mandated under the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and approved by the Obama administration.
- In May 2018, the Trump Administration withdrew from the JCPOA. It then sanctioned the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in November 2018. But the United States repeatedly issued waivers to allow foreign companies to work with the AEOI on projects designed to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
- Allowing these activities to continue for the time being will improve ongoing oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program and make these facilities less susceptible to illicit and illegal nuclear uses, Pompeo said on November 5, 2018.
- In July 2019, the State Department said that the extension “will help preserve oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program, reduce proliferation risks, constrain Iran’s ability to shorten its ‘breakout time’ to a nuclear weapon, and prevent the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes.”
- The waivers were extended for another 60 days in March 2020. The Trump Administration had gradually discontinued waivers for other projects, including the production and export of heavy water as well as swapping low-enriched uranium for natural uranium.
- But on May 27, Pompeo said that he could no longer justify renewing the waivers since Tehran had increased work on the nuclear program.
- Since July 2019, Iran has breached its obligations under the nuclear deal at least five times. The regime’s nuclear extortion will lead to increased pressure on Iran and further isolate the regime from the international community.
- The move was the latest expression of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign to get Iran to negotiate an expanded nuclear deal.
- The Trump administration did, however, issue a 90-day waiver for foreign companies working on the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant.