State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf continued pushing back Wednesday against a New York Times report on Iran's increased nuclear fuel stockpile and its potential violations of a deal with the U.S., saying "all of the nuclear experts" had assured her Iran would be in compliance with the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) by the June 30 deadline.
One reporter asked if Iran keeps increasing that stockpile, would that not make it much more difficult to reduce it to the agreed-upon level by the end of the month?
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"Honestly, I've talked to all of the nuclear experts on this," Harf said. "There is not a concern that they will get down to the right amount by June 30. In the two previous times, the initial JPOA and then the extension, they've done the same thing, and they've always gotten back where they needed to be. If they don't, that'll be a problem. You're right. We expect that they will, and we just don't have concerns about them being able to do that."
Maybe not every nuclear expert.
A study authored by David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini of the Institute for Science and International Security found that Iran's current levels of low-enriched uranium show it is badly behind in its pledge to convert it all into oxide form by the deadline:
From January 20, 2014 and into May 2015 Iran produced about 4,000 kilograms of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) hexafluoride. Under the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), Iran has committed to convert all newly produced 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride into oxide form. As of May 2015, it has fed a total of 2,720 kilograms of this type of LEU into the conversion process at the Enriched UO2 Powder Plant (EUPP) and produced only about 150 kilograms of LEU dioxide. It has not fed any LEU hexafluoride into the plant since November 2014. Thus, Iran has fallen behind in its pledge to convert its newly produced LEU hexafluoride into oxide form. There are legitimate questions about whether Iran can produce all the requisite LEU oxide.
The framework deal struck in early April stipulated Iran would reduce its stock of 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium to 300 kilograms. While the Obama administration's claim that Iran's nuclear program had been "frozen" by negotiations seemed belied by the Times report of a 20 percent increase in nuclear fuel over the past 18 months, Harf insisted, in rather circular fashion, that notion was actually true since Iran had to return to the level "frozen in place" in the agreement.
As she said, if Iran failed to do so, "that'll be a problem."
Harf said Tuesday she and the State Department were "totally perplexed" by the Times story, and she took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to express her continued derision, calling its tenets "not true."