The anatomy of the Iranian nuclear deal

By Brian Murphy

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Nov. 24 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, center, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, attend a ceremony after an agreement was reached on Iran's nuclear program at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. Iran struck a historic nuclear deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers, in the most significant development between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement between the two nations.

Keystone, Martial Trezzini, Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Moments after Iran and world powers signed a landmark nuclear deal on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was already looking ahead to the "even more difficult" efforts to probe Tehran's atomic capabilities and try to ease international concerns that they cannot be diverted for weapons development. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, said his country is ready to "remove created doubts" about Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran insists is fully peaceful.

Both Kerry's predictions and Rouhani's promises will shape the next six months in the first step of an accord that could help redefine the politics of the region and reset relations between the U.S. and Iran after nearly 35 years of mutual recriminations and suspicions. Tough and expansive U.N. inspections are ahead. Iran also must keep up its end of the bargain with measures such as curbing uranium enrichment and halting work on a new reactor.

Here is a look at the demands, the details and the political ripples from the deal hammered out in Geneva:


From a pure number-crunching standpoint, Iranian compliance would make enrichment levels and stockpiles insufficient to create a nuclear weapon or move quickly toward warhead capacity.

The centerpiece of the agreement is the degree of Iran's uranium enrichment, which is the process of converting concentrated uranium into nuclear fuel.

Iran has pledged to keep its enrichment at no higher than 5 percent. This is well below what's needed for weapons-grade material at more than 90 percent enrichment. It would allow Iran to make fuel for its lone energy-producing reactor, a Russian-built plant in Bushehr on the Persian Gulf coast. But it would keep the levels too low for a weapon or even a fast-track effort at so-called "breakout" toward warhead strength.

Iran already has a significant stockpile of higher-enriched uranium: an estimated 185 kilograms (407 pounds) of 20 percent-enriched uranium. This is the highest level acknowledged by Tehran. The Geneva deal calls for Iran, over the next six months, to either "dilute" the material below 5 percent or have it repurposed into powder — which makes it useable as nuclear fuel but very difficult to be further boosted. In recent years, Iran has repurposed an amount of 20 percent enrichment similar to its current stockpile.

Specialized centrifuges are needed in the enrichment process. The deal blocks the installation of any new centrifuges for the next six months. This means Iran could not significantly accelerate production of even the 5 percent enriched uranium.

Beyond enrichment, Iran also agreed to halt work on a planned heavy water reactor in Arak, about 255 kilometers (152 miles) southwest of Tehran. Heavy water is a compound used to cool nuclear reactors, which do not need enriched uranium to operate. Heavy water reactors also produce a greater amount of plutonium as a byproduct, which could be used to make warhead material. Iran does not currently possess the technology to extract the plutonium, and promised in Geneva not to seek it.


Inspectors for the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency have made frequent visits to Iranian facilities for years. The Geneva deal gives them faster and broader access as the linchpin of monitoring and enforcement.

Iran agreed to provide "daily access" to International Atomic Energy Agency teams at the two main enrichment sites: Natanz and Fordo. Natanz, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) southeast of Tehran, is the main enrichment facility. Fordo, built into the side of a mountain about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Tehran, was disclosed by Iran in 2009. The area is heavily protected by the Revolutionary Guard.

U.N. nuclear inspectors have toured both sites, but the Geneva pact would allow everyday access to review U.N. surveillance video.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere