U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said Iran made “significant progress” in keeping up its end of the nuclear deal with world powers, after it was reported that the Islamic Republic sent a major shipment of low-enriched uranium materials to Russia, AFP reports.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told the local ISNA news agency, "The fuel exchange process has taken place."
The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the report, according to AFP.
ISNA's report said Iran had sent 8.5 tons of low-enriched nuclear material to Russia and received "around 140 tons of natural uranium in return."
Washington described the shipment as 25,000 pounds of "low-enriched uranium materials."
This, in Kerry's words, represents "all of Iran's nuclear material enriched to 20 percent that was not already in the form of fabricated fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor."
Under the deal struck in July between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers, Tehran agreed to cut its low-enriched uranium 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.
Kerry said on Monday 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, according to AFP.
He said the shipment to Russia was "a significant step toward Iran meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day."
On Sunday, Iranian officials said the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the six Western powers will come into force in early January.
The implementation of the deal comes despite a December 2 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which concluded that Iran made a "coordinated" effort to develop nuclear weapons in the past, although the efforts apparently ended at an early stage.
According to the report, most of the dedicated work took place before 2003, though some parts continued until 2009.
The UN watchdog also recently released a report which determined that Iran had violated the terms of its nuclear deal with the West by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium in the past three months by 460.2 kilograms.
Earlier it was also revealed that Iran had stopped dismantling its centrifuges at the Natanz and Fordow uranium enrichment plants, breaching the nuclear deal that calls for the dismantling.
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."