Iran Begins Exporting Uranium Stockpiles to Russia

December 21, 2015

2 min read

Iran is preparing to meet its commitments to reduce its uranium stockpiles by exporting much of its enriched uranium to Russia, Reuters news agency reported Saturday.

The news agency referenced state news source IRNA, which quoted nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi. “In the next few days around nine tonnes of Iran’s enriched uranium will be exported to Russia,” he said. This is roughly the amount needed to meet the Islamic Republic’s requirements to reduce its stockpiles to only 300 kg (660 lb).

The deal reached by Iran and six world powers on July 14 additionally obligates the Islamic Republic to dismantle many of its centrifuges used for enrichment and remove the core of a heavy water reactor at Arak so it cannot be used to produce plutonium, which could also potentially be used to make bombs.

The Times of Israel reported that Stephen Mull, the US State Department’s lead coordinator on the implementation acknowledged Wednesday that Iran was moving forward on its commitments. “It has already removed more than 5,000 of its machines and is likely to move quickly to remove the rest in the coming days,” Mull said.

He noted that Iran is reducing its enriched uranium stockpile “primarily by shipping a significant amount of such material outside Iran, while also diluting the remaining excess to the level of natural uranium or below,” Mull explained. “Commercial contracts are in place for Iran to ship its enriched uranium stockpiles to Russia. We expect that this material — approximately 25,000 pounds of material enriched up to 20 percent low-enriched uranium — could leave Iran in the coming weeks.”

Tehran is preparing to meet all its commitments before the end of the year, if possible. This would allow crippling sanctions against the Islamic Republic to be lifted in January, once the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency verifies Iranian compliance. With sanctions lifted, Iran has pledged to boost oil production, and foreign companies are very interested in the 80 million-strong untapped market Iran represents.

According to Reuters, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s goal is to feel the benefits of the lifted sanctions in advance of February 26 elections to parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chooses the Supreme Leader. This would boost the prospects of pro-government candidates. If, however, voters do not feel relief before the elections, it would empower hardliners who opposed the deal.

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