The Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 with major world powers requires Iran to adhere to limits regarding its stock of heavy water. The excess must be shipped abroad.

However, Iran is challenging the obligation to ship out any stock that exceeds the 130-tonne limit. This has raised concerns that there will be a confrontation with the Trump administration because the Islamic Republic is fast approaching the limit.

The Iran nuclear deal has restrictions in place regarding the country’s atomic activity. In return, Iran is to benefit from the lifting of sanctions.

Since the deal was signed, Iran has already exceeded the limit twice. In the latest exceedance, Iran sent stock to Oman where it will be stored until a buyer is found for it.

In a letter to the UN nuclear watchdog during the week, which was circulated on their website and distributed to member states, Iran claims that the deal does not oblige it to ship the excess heavy water outside the country.

It said: “Nothing in the (agreement) requires Iran to ship out the excess heavy water which is made available to the international market but has not yet found an actual buyer to which the heavy water needs to be delivered.”

The deal states that stocks of heavy water over the limit “will be made available for export to the international market based on international prices and delivered to the international buyer”.

President Trump, even before entering office, had made his concerns about the Iran nuclear deal very clear. He said that the US needs to enforce the terms of the deal “so tough” so that Iran doesn’t “have a chance”.

In a meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week, the US reiterated that excess heavy water, in other words anything exceeding 130 metric tons, “cannot remain in Iran”.

The West is concerned that Iran is producing too much heavy water – faster than it can be used or sold. Last month the country had 124.2 tonnes of heavy water.

The IAEA is monitoring Iran as part of the deal and last month it said at a meeting to member states that Iran, if it continues at its current rate, will reach the limit in the next two months.

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