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July 17, 2015

Policy Memo: Summary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

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On July 14, 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was secured by the P5+1 (United States, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia) and Iran. The negotiated agreement will lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in exchange for constraints and inspections over Iran’s nuclear program to provide verifiable assurance that it is limited to peaceful purposes. Below is a summary of the agreement.


Iran sharply curtails its enrichment activities under the deal, cutting off any uranium pathway to a nuclear weapon:

  • Iran will cut its installed centrifuges by two-thirds to 6,104, with only 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges enriching uranium at a single site for ten years. Iran will limit enrichment to 3.67% for fifteen years.
  • No uranium enrichment will be permitted at the Fordow facility for fifteen years.
  • Iran will cut its stockpile of enriched uranium by 97% to 300kg or less for fifteen years.
  • All excess centrifuges and related infrastructure will be stored under IAEA continuous monitoring.

Heavy Water Reactor

Iran redesigns the reactor at the Arak heavy water reactor, cutting off any plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon:

  • Iran will remove the core of the reactor at Arak, fill it with concrete, and redesign the facility so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium.
  • Iran will not build any more heavy water reactors or accumulate heavy water for 15 years, and will forego reprocessing.
  • Iran will ship out all spent fuel for the future and present power and research nuclear reactors.
  • In the future, any new reactors will utilize a light water design, which is more proliferation-resistant.

Inspections and Verification

The agreement is fully verifiable through the most intrusive inspections regime ever negotiated:

  • Iran will implement the Additional Protocol and ratify it after eight years, locking in extensive inspection powers for international inspectors, including timely access to any suspicious site.
  • Iran will implement the IAEA’s Modified Code 3.1, which requires Iran to notify the IAEA if it seeks to build any new nuclear facilities.
  • Iran has agreed to a roadmap with the IAEA to resolve the investigation into prior, possible military dimensions (PMD) to its nuclear program over the next several months.
  • Iran will permit IAEA monitoring Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, including uranium mines for 25 years and all centrifuge production facilities for 20 years.
  • Iran will act in accordance with the procurement channel for nuclear-related technologies to be established under the JCPOA and endorsed by the UN Security Council.
  • Combined with the IAEA’s use of the most modern technologies, this will constitute the most rigorous inspections regime in the world.

Sanctions Relief

Following confirmation that Iran is implementing the deal, Iran will receive relief from multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions:

  • The UN Security Council will adopt a new resolution endorsing the JCPOA and terminating all provisions of the previous UN Security Council resolutions relating to Iran.
  • The new UN Security Council resolution will also incorporate certain restrictions for an agreed period of time, including restrictions relating to the sale of arms to or from Iran for five years and Iran’s development of ballistic missile technologies for eight years.
  • The U.S. will suspend all nuclear-related sanctions, including those related to banking, energy, and trade.
  • U.S. sanctions focused exclusively on Iran’s support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, and its missile activities.
  • The U.S. trade ban on Iran will remain in place, however certain items will be licensed or otherwise exempted from the ban: exports of civilian aircraft and aircraft parts to Iran, and imports of carpets and foodstuffs including pistachios and caviars.
  • The EU will terminate all nuclear-related sanctions, including those related to banking, energy, and trade.

Implementation Schedule

The JCPOA outlines a “reciprocal, step-by-step process” under which the U.S. and its European partners relieve nuclear-related sanctions only at such time as the IAEA verifies that Iran has completed certain key steps to limit and roll-back elements of its nuclear program. This process is divided into five “days”:

  • Finalization Day: Negotiations are concluded and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and Iran agree to and endorse a JCPOA, which is transmitted to the UN Security Council for adoption.
  • Adoption Day: The JCPOA takes effect and the P5+1 and Iran start implement their commitments. Adoption Day is 90 days after the endorsement of the JCPOA by the UN Security Council or any earlier date agreed to by the JCPOA parties.
  • Implementation Day: The IAEA delivers a report verifying that Iran has implemented its key nuclear-related commitments and the U.S. and its European partners relieve most nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.
  • Transition Day: Either 8 years after Adoption Day or the date on which the IAEA concludes Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, Iran will seek to ratify the Additional Protocol while the U.S. will seek to repeal its nuclear-related sanction legislation.
  • UNSCR Termination Day: The provisions of the UN Security Council resolution are terminated and the UN Security Council ends its consideration of the Iranian nuclear issue, which is expected to be 10 years from the date of Adoption Day.

Dispute Resolution Mechanism

  • If any state believes another state is not meeting its commitments under the JCPOA, then it can refer them to a Joint Commission composed by representatives of the P5+1 and Iran for resolution, which would have 15 days to resolve the issue, unless extended by consensus.
  • Following the consideration of the Joint Commission, any state could refer the compliance issue to the foreign minister level, which would have 15 days to resolve the issue as well. At the same time, a state could refer the compliance issue to a three-person Advisory Board for issuance of a nonbinding opinion.
  • If a state is left dissatisfied with all proposed resolutions and the party believes another state’s activities constitute a case of significant non-performance under the agreement, then that state can cease performance of its own commitments under the agreement and refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
  • The UN Security Council would need unanimous consent among the P5 to continue the lifting of sanctions within a 30-day period or else all the provisions of the previous UN Security Council resolutions relating to Iran kick back into place. Thus, all permanent members of the UN Security Council can unilaterally decide to re-impose UN Security Council sanctions on Iran.
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