TEHRAN – The implementation of the six-month interim deal between Iran and world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program, which envisages easing of some international sanctions against the country, started on Monday.
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency report said Iran had begun diluting its stockpile of uranium enriched to the fissile concentration of 20 percent, paving the way for the easing of some Western sanctions against Tehran, Reuters reported.
Iran was also continuing to convert some of this reserve into oxide for producing reactor fuel, the IAEA said.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (IAEA) Director Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday that Iran has “voluntarily suspended” 20 percent uranium enrichment, adding that the country’s overall nuclear structure will remain intact.
“The sanctions iceberg against Iran is melting, and it is our greatest achievement,” Salehi said, referring to the fact that Iran will be able to retrieve $4.2 billion in oil revenues frozen overseas and resume trade in petrochemicals, gold, and other precious metals under the deal.
The IAEA will play a pivotal role in overseeing the implementation of the interim agreement.
It now has one to two teams of two inspectors each on the ground in Iran virtually every day of the year to check there is no diversion of nuclear materials, but one diplomat familiar with the matter said that presence would roughly be doubled.
The overall number of IAEA staff dealing with the Iran file - including analysts and logistical support at its Vienna headquarters - would also increase significantly as a result of the accord between Iran and the powers struck in November.
The diplomat made clear that the first day’s implementation of the deal had run smoothly with good cooperation.
The IAEA report to member states said, “The agency confirms that, as of 20 January 2014, Iran ... has ceased enriching uranium above 5 percent U-235 at the two cascades at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and four cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) previously used for this purpose.”
It was referring to the Islamic Republic’s two enrichment plants, at Natanz and Fordow. Cascades are interlinked networks of centrifuge machines that refine uranium. Iranian state television earlier said Iran had halted 20 percent enrichment at Natanz and that inspectors were heading to Fordow.
Iran has been enriching uranium to 20 percent concentration of the fissile U-235 isotope since early 2010.
The IAEA report also listed other measures Iran had agreed with the six world powers - the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China, and Russia.
Those included an undertaking that Iran would not build any more enrichment sites during this time under the deal, which is meant to buy time for negotiations on a final settlement of Tehran’s decade-old nuclear stand-off with the powers.
Iran denies Western allegations that it has been seeking to develop the capability to develop nuclear weapons, saying it wants only to generate electricity from enrichment.
The IAEA report also said Iran was, as of January 20, not “conducting any further advances” to its activities at the Arak heavy water research reactor.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman also said that, under the deal, the IAEA is scheduled to report on the Arak reactor every month instead of every three months.
In a January 18 letter to the Vienna-based IAEA, Iran had enclosed information on centrifuge assembly workshops, storage facilities, and centrifuge rotor production workshops, the report added.
“The Agency and Iran have also agreed on arrangements for increased access by agency inspectors to the nuclear facilities at Natanz and Fordow, including in relation to weekends and holidays in Iran,” the IAEA said.