|Iran continuing to convert enriched uranium into reactor fuel: diplomats||
TEHRAN – Iran appears to be holding back growth of its stock of medium-enriched uranium gas by continuing to convert some of it into reactor fuel, Reuters quoted diplomats as saying on Monday.
Iran has produced more than 240 kilograms of enriched uranium to a purity level of 20 percent since 2010. It has converted part of the uranium gas into oxide powder in order to yield fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
The diplomats, accredited to the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran might even have stepped up this conversion in recent months.
If this is confirmed in the IAEA’s quarterly report, due around August 27-28, the inventory of 20 percent gas will rise by less than the output, which has been about 15 kilograms per month.
One of the diplomats suggested the stockpile may show little or even no growth during the last three months.
But he and others cautioned against seeing it as a signal by the new Iranian president, Hassan Rohani, as the uranium conversion began in late 2011.
Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent uranium gas amounted to 182 kilograms in May, according to the IAEA’s last report, an increase of 9 percent since February.
The six powers negotiating with Iran - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia - want it to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and suspend work at the underground Fordo site where most of this activity is pursued.
Rohani, a former nuclear negotiator who oversaw a previous deal to suspend Iran’s uranium enrichment, has pledged to improve ties with the outside world and secure an easing of international sanctions.
But he insists on Iran’s right to refine uranium, and the government has made clear that it would expect a major easing of sanctions, which are hurting its oil-dependent economy, in exchange for any agreement to curb enrichment.
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