Iran has Cut Its 20%-Enriched Uranium by Half, UN Says

Progress in commissioning a nuclear conversion plant has been delayed, Reuters reported. US unfreezes $450M of Iranian funds.

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Bushehr nuclear power plant
Bushehr nuclear power plant
AFP photo

Iran is complying with the terms of its temporary nuclear agreement with six world powers, a monthly update from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed on Thursday. The secret report was obtained by Reuters and the Associated Press.

Under the January 20 deal, Iran curbed some parts of its nuclear program in exchange for the limited easing of sanctions that have punished its economy.

The IAEA report showed that in accordance with the agreement, Iran has indeed neutralized half of its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium that could be turned quickly into the core of a nuclear weapon. Uranium at that level is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material.

The full IAEA report is due to be published next week.

The report also said that progress in commissioning a nuclear conversion plant, part of the interim agreement, had been delayed, according to Reuters. The nuclear conversion plant would turn low-enriched uranium gas (LEU) into an oxide powder that is not suitable for further processing into highly-enriched bomb-grade uranium.

The six powers involved – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – want Iran to agree to permanently reduce the scope of its enrichment program and to give UN inspectors more oversight.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed talks with world powers but warned Tehran will never give up its nuclear program.

Russia and Iran are said to be negotiating an oil-for-goods deal thought to be worth up to $20bn (£12bn), which the US says would undermine the nuclear talks.

The US said Thursday has taken steps to release a $450 million installment of frozen Iranian funds following the IAEA report verifying that Iran is living up to its part of a landmark nuclear pact with world powers, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that "all sides have kept the commitments made" under the agreement. She said that "as Iran remains in line with its commitments," the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union "will continue to uphold our commitments as well."