Iran and Enriched Uranium


    In News

    • Iran’s atomic agency said that its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached over 210 kilograms.
      • It is the latest defiant move ahead of upcoming nuclear talks with the West. 

    Uranium as a Fuel

    • Nuclear fuel is mined from naturally occurring uranium ore deposits and then isolated through chemical reactions and separation processes.
    • Natural uranium consists of two different isotopes: 
      • nearly 99% U-238 and 
      • only around 0.72% of U-235.
    • U-238 is not fissile, thus the concentration of U-235 must be increased before it can be effectively used as a nuclear fuel.
      • U-235 being a fissile material sustains a chain reaction in a nuclear reactor.
    • Uranium enrichment is a process that creates an effective nuclear fuel out of mined uranium by increasing the percentage of uranium-235.
      • Enrichment process basically increases the proportion of U-235 through the process of isotope separation (U-238 is separated from U-235).
    • For nuclear Weapons
      • Highly Enriched Uranium or weapons-grade uranium
      • For which enrichment is required up to 90% or more.
    • For Nuclear Reactor
      • Low Enriched Uranium or reactor-grade uranium
      • Enrichment is required upto 3-4% only.

    Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

    • Also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.
    • The JCPOA was the result of prolonged negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 
      • China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU.
    • The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
      • Iran committed to drastically reduce its stockpiles of weapon grade Uranium, including centrifuges, enriched uranium, and heavy water.
      • Iran was not meant to enrich uranium above 3.67% which was meant to fulfill its energy requirement. 
    • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was instrumental in enforcing the agreement by monitoring Iran and conducting inspections.
    • The U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 but Britain, France, Germany,China and Russia have tried to preserve the accord

    Iran’s Maximum Resistance

    • Tensions rose after the U.S. pushed unilateral sanctions, widening its scope to cover nearly all Iranian banks connected to the global financial system.
    • Earlier Iran’s response was muted as the E-3 (France, Germany, the U.K.) and the EU promised to find ways to mitigate the U.S. decision.
      • The E-3’s in 2019 created Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), to facilitate trade with Iran.
    • However, the anticipated economic relief failed to materialize, thus pushing Iran’s strategic patience. 
      • Tehran thus shifted to a strategy of ‘maximum resistance’.
    • Thereafter, Iran has been steadily breaking its commitments to pressurise the remaining signatories to find a way to provide sanctions relief.
      • Iran has produced 25 kg 60% enriched uranium.
      • A level that only countries with nuclear weapons have the physical capabilities to produce.

    India-Iran relations

    • Regional Connectivity: 
      • Removing sanctions will rekindle India’s interest in the Chabahar and Bandar Abbas ports.
      • India’s interest in the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC), which runs through Iran, 
        • will improve connectivity with five Central Asian republics will also get a boost.
    • Indian Ocean Security:
      • This would assist India in neutralising China’s footprint in Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
      • Also, will help counter China’s alleged String of Pearls Policy.
    • Energy Security:
      • Due to the US’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), India has to bring down oil imports to zero.
      • Re-establishment of links between the US and Iran will help India to procure cheap Iranian oil and aid in energy security.

    Way Forward

    • After months of delays, the European Union, Iran and the U.S. will go for  indirect talks to resuscitate the deal.
    • Continuous Dialogue:
      • All countries part of the 2015 deal should engage constructively and resolve all issues peacefully and through dialogue.
    • Peaceful Globe:
      • Both the USA and Iran must act with strategic restraint as any crisis in West Asia will not only affect the region as a whole 
      • but will have a detrimental impact on global affairs as well.
    • In the words of General Omar Bradley, 
      • Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.
      • We know more about war than about peace, more about killing than living.
      • We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the sermon on the mount.

    Source: TH