|Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium has fallen: IAEA||
TEHRAN – The size of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium to a purity level of 20 percent has declined significantly for the first time in four years following a landmark nuclear deal with the major powers in November, the UN nuclear agency reported on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Iran agreed under a November 24 deal with the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) to shelve its 20 percent enrichment. It has since diluted some of this uranium to a lower concentration and converted some into uranium oxide.
“That decrease has been quite important,” a senior diplomat familiar with Iran’s nuclear program said, and the “progress has been quite substantial in terms of inventory.”
Thursday’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also showed, as reported by Reuters earlier this week, that the Islamic Republic was meeting its commitments under the November accord not to expand its most sensitive nuclear activity in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions.
“Things are progressing as planned,” the diplomat said.
The IAEA report was issued to member states just hours after Iran and the six powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia - completed a first round of negotiations in Vienna aimed at a final settlement of the decade-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program. The next round was set for March 17.
UN nuclear inspectors are playing an important role in monitoring the implementation of last year’s six-month accord, designed to buy time for the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement over nuclear activity Tehran says is entirely peaceful but the West claims may have military designs.
Iran’s reserve of 20 percent uranium gas fell to 161 kg (354 pounds) in February from about 196 kg (431 pounds) in November, the IAEA said.
Iran says it needs 20 percent enriched uranium to replenish the fuel supply of a Tehran medical research reactor.
However, the IAEA report showed the stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) - or 5 percent purity - increased to 7,609 kg (16,740 pounds) from 7,154 kg (15,739 pounds) in November.
LEU is normally used to fuel nuclear power plants, the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program.
The interim agreement took effect on January 20 and the IAEA gave an update about its implementation on Thursday, together with a regular quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities.
While Iran a month ago stopped 20 percent enrichment, it is allowed under the November pact to keep producing uranium refined to up to 5 percent.
But it agreed to limit its LEU reserve and a new Iranian conversion plant, which is under construction, is meant to help achieve that.
Diplomats said this matter was of no immediate concern since Iran’s commitment concerned the size of the stockpile towards the end of the deal, in late July, giving it time both to complete the facility and convert enough material.
The IAEA also said Iran had told it about preliminary site selection for five new enrichment sites but that there would be no new such plants during the half-year deal with the powers.
Iran has also informed the IAEA of a new planned research reactor that would use 20 percent uranium oxide as fuel.
The IAEA repeated its request to visit the Parchin military base, a site southeast of Tehran where it claims - based on Western intelligence information - that Iran may have conducted nuclear weapons-related explosives tests. Iran denies this.
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