Iran’s Uranium Stocks Could Grow Under Nuclear Accord

Global Security Newswire Staff
Jan. 22, 2014, 8:12 a.m.

Ir­an might briefly ac­cu­mu­late more low-en­riched urani­um un­der new lim­its, as it still can­not change the ma­ter­i­al to a less bomb-suit­able form, Re­u­ters re­ports.

En­voys and ana­lysts said there is no im­me­di­ate cause for alarm over a pos­sible short-term boost in the stocks un­der Ir­an’s ac­cord with the five per­man­ent U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil mem­ber na­tions and Ger­many.

One dip­lo­mat, though, pre­dicted care­ful glob­al scru­tiny of Ir­an’s pre­par­a­tions to turn its gaseous urani­um in­to sol­id ox­ide.

A site for car­ry­ing out that task was sched­uled to enter tri­als last month, and then to launch “im­me­di­ately after” vet­ting was com­plete, ac­cord­ing to an In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency safe­guards as­sess­ment from Novem­ber. However, the na­tion ap­pears to have fallen be­hind in pre­par­ing the so-called En­riched UO2 Powder Plant, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters.

The fa­cil­ity would al­low Ir­an to lim­it its low-en­riched re­serves by pro­cessing the ma­ter­i­al in­to ox­ide powder, which would be less suited for con­ver­sion in­to bomb-grade, highly en­riched urani­um.

Wash­ing­ton says Ir­an has pledged to pos­sess no more low-en­riched urani­um gas at the end of the pact’s six-month dur­a­tion than the na­tion held this week, when the in­ter­im nuc­le­ar agree­ment took ef­fect. The deal is in­ten­ded to carve out space for ne­go­ti­at­ors to ad­dress sus­pi­cions that Ir­an is pur­su­ing a nuc­le­ar-arms cap­ab­il­ity un­der the guise of a peace­ful atom­ic pro­gram.

A high-level Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said the na­tion would hold less than 16,865 pounds in Ju­ly, when the deal is slated to ex­pire. Post­pon­ing the ox­ide plant’s ac­tiv­a­tion means the site would have to op­er­ate faster than planned, if Tehran is to fall in line with the stock­pile re­stric­tion after six months. Ir­an is be­lieved to pro­duce roughly 550 pounds of low-en­riched urani­um each month, so it would have to pro­cess at least that amount in­to powder monthly to stay with­in lim­its.

Mean­while, en­ergy-in­dustry ob­serv­ers say the Novem­ber nuc­le­ar deal ap­pears to have slightly boos­ted Ir­an’s pet­ro­leum sales, Re­u­ters re­por­ted sep­ar­ately. The news agency val­ued the in­crease at roughly $150 mil­lion each month, and linked the change to grow­ing con­fid­ence among oil pur­chasers in an­ti­cip­a­tion of the atom­ic ac­cord.

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