Monday the country had surpassed the limits on how much it was allowed to enrich uranium under the 2015 international nuclear deal.
Iranian state media quoted spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying enrichment levels had reached nearly 5%, breaching the 3.67% limit set in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
He also said Iran could consider continuing on to enriching uranium to 20% as the next step in its move to back away from its commitments under the nuclear deal, unless it gets the help it wants on sanctions relief.
Uranium enriched to 5% is sufficient to produce fuel for nuclear power plants, but still far below the 90% needed for building a nuclear weapon.
Iran has been hinting at, and subsequently following through on, pledges to increase its nuclear activity while demanding other signatories to the nuclear agreement — particularly those in Europe — do more to help Iran economically as it deals with negative effects of sanctions the United States has imposed since pulling out of the deal last year.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week Iran was prepared to enrich “any amount that we want” beyond the 3.67% level. He further pledged to resume construction of the Arak heavy water reactor, a project Iran agreed to shut down when it signed the 2015 deal. Iran has also already gone past the limit for the amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to keep in its stockpile.
The moves have drawn concern from Europe. EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters Monday the bloc is “extremely concerned” about Iran’s boost in enrichment and that it is urging Iran to “stop and reverse all activities” that are not consistent with its commitments under the nuclear deal.
In the United States, President Donald Trump warned Iran on Sunday it “better be careful.”
He did not specify to reporters any specific reactions his administration was considering, but reiterated the position that “Iran will never have a nuclear weapon.”
Trump made his comment hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that Iran’s decision will lead to “further isolation and sanctions.”
“Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment for Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s regime with nuclear weapons would pose an even greater danger to the world,” Pompeo wrote.
The deal came in response to allegations Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons, and in return for the restrictions that were put in place to allay those concerns, Iran won badly needed relief from sanctions that harmed its economy.