Iran Rolls Back Uranium Stockpile Over Weapons Fears

A control-room monitor shows technicians unsealing a container at Iran's Isfahan uranium-conversion facility in 2005. The Middle Eastern nation is converting its most sensitive uranium into an oxide form less usable in weapons, the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated on Friday.  
National Journal
Diane Barnes
May 23, 2014, 10:47 a.m.

Ir­an is mov­ing to elim­in­ate more of the urani­um it could most eas­ily re­fine in­to nuc­le­ar-bomb ma­ter­i­al, the U.N. nuc­le­ar watch­dog said on Fri­day.

In­spect­ors last week con­firmed that Ir­an had fed nearly 670 pounds of its 20 per­cent-en­riched urani­um-hex­a­flu­or­ide gas in­to a sys­tem at its Is­fa­han fa­cil­ity for pro­du­cing sol­id ox­ide, the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency said in quarterly safe­guards re­port. The ac­tion was in line with a short-term deal the Per­sian Gulf power reached oth­er gov­ern­ments over fears that it was pur­su­ing an abil­ity to build nuc­le­ar bombs.

The coun­try has long in­sisted its nuc­le­ar pro­gram is peace­ful, but last year agreed to make the 20 per­cent-en­riched urani­um harder to use in nuc­le­ar weapons. It has already com­pleted plans to blend down half of the stock­pile and, on Fri­day, agency in­spect­ors said ef­forts to con­vert the oth­er half in­to ox­ide were “on­go­ing.”

Ad­dress­ing con­cerns that Ir­an may be able to re­turn the ox­ide to its gaseous form, IAEA of­fi­cials noted that the con­ver­sion sys­tem at Is­fa­han con­tained “no pro­cess line … for the re­con­ver­sion of urani­um ox­ides in­to [urani­um hex­a­flu­or­ide].”

Ir­an is pur­su­ing ne­go­ti­ations with six oth­er coun­tries — China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia, the United King­dom and the United States — on a po­ten­tial long-term re­place­ment for the in­ter­im nuc­le­ar ac­cord reached last Novem­ber. The tem­por­ary ar­range­ment is due to ex­pire on Ju­ly 20.

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