1. Main
  2. Learn
  3. Politics
  4. Politics

Iran ships uranium to Russia under nuclear deal

Iran ships uranium to Russia under nuclear deal Iran ships uranium to Russia under nuclear deal

Iran sent a major shipment of low-enriched uranium materials to Russia on Monday, a key step in Tehran's implementation of this year's historic nuclear accord with world powers, AFP reports.

The United States hailed the move, which Secretary of State John Kerry said marked "significant progress" in Tehran's fulfillment of a deal to stop it developing nuclear weapons.

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the report after Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told the ISNA news agency: "The fuel exchange process has taken place."

According to ISNA's report, Iran had sent 8.5 tons of low-enriched nuclear material to Russia and received "around 140 tons of natural uranium in return."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner described the cargo as a 25,000-pound "combination of forms of low-enriched uranium materials" including five and 20 percent enriched uranium, scrap metal and unfinished fuel plates.

"So that actually constitutes, I think, almost all of Iran's current stockpile of enriched uranium," he added.

Under the deal struck in July in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers, Tehran agreed to cut its low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile to less than 300 kilograms (660 pounds).

This would mean that it would not have enough fuel on hand to rapidly enrich enough to the levels needed to build a nuclear weapon -- lengthening its so-called "breakout time" to more than a year.

Iran said Tuesday it had entered the final days of completing its commitments under a landmark international deal to curb its atomic programme after it shipped low-enriched uranium to Russia.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran's atomic energy agency, said on Tuesday that Iran had received around 200 tons of yellow cake, a powder obtained in an intermediate step in the processing of natural uranium ore.

The exchange was one of three major measures Iran had to take to fulfil its end of the nuclear deal, after the International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this month closed its file on possible past military dimensions of Tehran's nuclear programme.

The other two steps are ensuring a dramatic cut to Tehran's number of functional centrifuges -- fast-spinning machines used to enrich uranium -- and replacing the core of a reactor at its Arak nuclear facility.

Kamalvandi said "Implementation Day" when almost a decade of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be lifted was now near.

"We can say that everything is set for the final step, which is removing the core part (of the Arak reactor)" and replacing it with a new one, he said.

"An agreement has been signed and preparations have been done. If we can finish the few minor things in the coming days, everything will be completed."

Kerry said that Iran's shipment to Russia had already tripled the amount of time it would take to produce enough fuel for a bomb from two or three months up to six or nine.

And he dubbed it "a significant step toward Iran meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day."

This "Implementation Day", which could come as early as next month, will come after the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, rules that Tehran has complied with its obligations.

The IAEA had no immediate comment on Monday's shipment, and Toner said the United States would wait until the UN agency makes a ruling to say formally whether Washington now accepts that Iran has less than 300 kilos of LEU.

After Iran's compliance has been verified, the United States and its allies will begin to dismantle the sanctions imposed on Tehran in response to its nuclear program.

 Weapons research

Iran has long insisted it had no intention of building a nuclear bomb, and a recent IAEA report found that it had conducted no weapons research since 2009.

But Tehran's past interest in developing such a weapon and its growing stockpile of enriched uranium stirred fears it could disturb the power balance in the Middle East and trigger a regional nuclear arms race.

Iran's enemy Israel is believed to have an undeclared nuclear arsenal, and richer Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia could spend billions in a bid to catch up, derailing global non-proliferation efforts.

Washington reiterated that Tehran still has other tasks to perform, including removing and permanently destroying the core of its Arak nuclear reactor, which could have produced weapons-grade plutonium.

The IAEA will be given greater access to Iranian facilities for its inspectors, and will install seals and monitoring devices to ensure there is no backsliding.

Kerry promised that the United States would repeal its nuclear-related sanctions once Implementation Day arrives.

But he warned "we will remain vigilant to ensure that its implementation achieves exactly what we set out to do from the very beginning of these negotiations, to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is and always remains exclusively for peaceful purposes."

Kerry also thanked Kazakhstan for its help in supplying Iran with the non-enriched uranium it received in exchange for surrendering its stockpile, and Norway, which helped manage and fund the operation to conduct the transfer.

Nobel prizewinner proposes a new city in KZ
New abnormal snowfalls expected in Kazakhstan
Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s
Hyperloop construction begins in Las Vegas
"Moonlight" to top Spirit Awards nominations
Oil prices fall due to investors uncertainty
New dwarf galaxy discovered around Milky Way
Kanat Islam becomes a top ten WBO boxer
World oil prices continue to rise
Kazakhstan expects warming - Kazhydromet
Merkel to seek fourth term as chancellor
Sale of Tintin drawings set to break records
US, EU stocks fall as markets focus on dollar
Pacific leaders urged to defend free trade
EU warns eight nations on budget deficit
Universiade-2017: Athletic Village is ready
Bob Dylan can't make Nobel ceremony
Messi will never leave Barca - club president
Google, Facebook take aim at 'fake' news
Aerosmith announces Europe 'farewell' tour
Putin, Trump to normalise US-Russia ties
At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey blast
6.2 quake hits western Japan
OPEC agrees shock oil output cut
Israeli ex-president and Nobel laureate Peres dies
Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
32,000 arrested in Turkey coup probe
Youth to the fore as Milan fashion week opens
Xenophobia threatening peace in eastern Germany
Four-in-10 Japanese are virgins: poll
Sweden re-militarises Baltic island of Gotland
China to launch second space laboratory: Xinhua
More than a billion stars mapped in Milky Way: ESA
Boxing: Golovkin eyes Saunders after stopping Brook
Kazakhstan shifts PM to security chief
Oil prices gain despite rising OPEC supply forecast
US to give Philippines military planes
Singapore wages war on Zika-bearing mosquitoes
Italy quake death toll nears 250
Viral photos add fuel to French burkini debate
18 dead as Italy struck by powerful quake
Japan's first lady visits Pearl Harbor
Pokemon's a no-go on Bangkok's roads
July was Earth's hottest month in modern times
Pakistan rock climbers scale new heights