Diplomats: Iran to Receive Natural Uranium
Iran is reportedly to receive a large shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, unnamed diplomats quoted by the AP said.
Two senior diplomats said the transfer recently approved by the US and five other world powers that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran foresees the delivery of nearly 130 tons of natural uranium.
UN Security Council's approval is needed but a formality, considering five of those powers are permanent Security Council members, they said.
Uranium can be enriched to levels ranging from reactor fuel or medical and research purposes to the core of an atomic bomb. Iran says it has no interest in such weapons and its activities are being closely monitored under the nuclear pact to make sure they remain peaceful.
Tehran already got a similar amount of natural uranium in 2015 as part of negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal, in a swap for enriched uranium it sent to Russia. But the new shipment will be the first such consignment since the deal came into force a year ago. The diplomats, whose main focus is Iran's nuclear program, demanded anonymity on Monday because they are not allowed to discuss the program's confidential details.
They spoke ahead of a meeting this week in Vienna of representatives of Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to review Iranian complaints that the US was reneging on sanctions relief pledges included in the nuclear deal.
The natural uranium agreement comes at a sensitive time, as the incoming US administration and many US lawmakers who are skeptical of the nuclear deal might view it as further evidence that Tehran is being given too many concessions.
The diplomats said any natural uranium transferred to Iran after the deal came into effect would be under the strict surveillance of the International Atomic Energy Agency for 25 years after the implementation of the deal.
They said Tehran has not said what it would do with the uranium but could choose to store it or turn it into low-enriched uranium and then export it as reactor fuel.
Without confirming the reported agreement, US officials argued that such shipments would neither endanger nor violate the Iran nuclear deal.
State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters there was no prohibition on such imports by Iran and noted natural uranium "cannot be used ... for a weapon" in its original form.
White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said such arrangements are "subject to the careful monitoring and inspections that are included in the deal to ensure that Iran is living up to the commitments that they made."
The swap is in compensation for the approximately 44 tons of heavy water exported by Iran to Russia since the nuclear agreement went into effect, said an official from one of the six powers, who also demanded anonymity citing confidentiality issues. Another 30 metric tons have gone to the US and Oman.
Heavy water is used to cool a type of reactor that produces more plutonium than reactors cooled by light water.