In a televised speech on January 1, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran had imported 200 metric tons of yellowcake uranium and would import another 120 tons at an unspecified future date. The imports are permitted by the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but nonetheless significantly exceed Iran’s needs for natural (that is, unenriched) uranium over the next 15 years. Iran’s import of such high levels of uranium suggests it may be stockpiling uranium to reach nuclear breakout before the deal’s initial limitations expire in 2031.
The JCPOA permits Iran to buy natural uranium to “replenish” its stocks as it sells enriched uranium on the international market. To date, Iran has had difficulties locating a buyer for its enriched uranium stocks – unsurprising, given the current excess of commercially available enriched uranium. This, however, has not stopped Iran from buying and stockpiling more yellowcake.