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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"On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump called on the world to isolate Iran," to the delight of his Sunni hosts, Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, however, on Saturday, "Iranians poured into the streets by the hundreds of thousands to celebrate the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani, whose message of opening up to the West helped him to trounce a hard-line challenger."