Iran's most closely watched uranium supply has dropped in size since November, when the nation reached a landmark nuclear deal with six world powers.
The country's quantity of 20 percent-enriched uranium -- a material suited for potential fast conversion into nuclear-weapon material -- has fallen to 354 pounds, nearly one-fifth less than what it possessed three months ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a quarterly inspections assessment. The finding came weeks after the implementation onset of a multilateral accord that included a six-month freeze on Iran's production of the substance.
Iran "ceased the production" of 20 percent-enriched uranium hexafluoride gas on Jan. 20, when the deal took effect, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in the report to its 35-nation governing board.
In addition, the nation "began downblending some of what it had produced" to lower-grade uranium that would take longer to convert into bomb fuel, giving outside powers more time to respond if Tehran ever decided to tap its uranium stocks for weapons development.
The United States its allies strongly doubt Iran's assertions that it was producing the sensitive uranium strictly for peaceful use. They hope the half-year agreement will pave the way for longer-term restrictions on Iran's uranium-enrichment program and other nuclear activities.
The agency added that Iran is cooperating with an intensified inspections regime established under the interim nuclear accord, as well as with measures under a separate U.N. probe into allegations of past weaponization activities.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.