Behind the Breakthrough: What Exactly Is in the Deal?

 In Iran

After 20 months of negotiations with Iran, the United States and its UN partners have reached a deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy. It’s a historic breakthrough for diplomacy but it’s also over 100 pages of policy detail that took immense scientific and technical creativity and skill to put together. Here are the basic parameters of how the agreement will work.

Enrichment & Centrifuges

  •      Iran has agreed to reduce by two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 to 6,104, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation — somewhat antiquated — centrifuge.
  •      Iran will reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by a massive 98%. Iran will limit stockpiles to 300 kg (661 Lbs) of 3.67 percent LEU (in Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) or its equivalents in other chemical forms) for 15 years. Iran will not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for 15 years. The significance of these limits is that Iran is limited to well less material than it would take — after difficult further processing — to build one bomb.

Fordow and Natanz Nuclear Facility

  •      Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it will not enrich uranium and will not conduct research and development associated with uranium for at least 15 years.
  •      At the Natanz facility, Iran will be permitted to enrich uranium with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges, removing its more advanced centrifuges for ten years. Iran will not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.

Research and Development

  •      Enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited for 10 years.  After 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections, Transparency and Access

The deal has the most intrusive and comprehensive verification regime ever negotiated in a nuclear weapons agreement. Iran has agreed to 24/7 monitoring of declared nuclear facilities. Inspectors have access to the entire nuclear supply chain that includes uranium mines and mills, conversion facilities, centrifuge manufacturing and storage as well as other nuclear facilities for 25 years.

  •      The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow.
  •      Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program including uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, for 25 years.
  •      Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
  •      Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities. The 
IAEA will be able to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  •      Iran has agreed to early notification of construction of new facilities.
 Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program from the past.

Reactors and Reprocessing

  •      Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.
  •      Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
 Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.
  •      Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.


  •      U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
 The P5+1 estimate that it will take Iran 6-12 months to complete this.
  •      The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.
  •      All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).
  •      However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation.
  •      The new UN Security Council resolution will re-establish important sanctions restricting the transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies and keep in place sanctions on ballistic missiles for 8 years and conventional arms for 5 years.
  •      U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism and human rights abuses will remain in place under the deal.
  •      The most immediate effect will come from the release of Iran’s frozen funds abroad, estimated at over $100 billion.


  •      For 10 years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1.
  •      For 15 years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.
  •      For 25 years, the robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years.
  •      Forever: Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations.
  •      Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program Iran agrees not to pursue a nuclear weapon. Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.

Full Text of the Agreement

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