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Iran's 20% Enriched Nuclear Fuel Stockpile Stands at 40kg

01/08/11 Source: Fars News Agency, Tehran

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced on Saturday that the country has, thus far, produced almost 40kg of 20-percent-enriched uranium to supply fuel to the Tehran research reactor.

"We have produced about 40kg of 20% (enriched) uranium and we hope to witness the injection of the first batch of Iran-made 20% fuel to the Tehran research reactor soon," Salehi told FNA.

Salehi had in June announced that Iran is potentially capable of producing five kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium per month.

Elsewhere, he announced Tehran's preparedness to resume talks with the Vienna Group (the US, Russia, France and the International Atomic Energy Agency) on the swap of nuclear fuel for the Tehran research reactor, and said the more they delay in holding a new round of negotiations with us, "the more progress we make in fuel production and after a while the issue of fuel swap will become meaningless".

Stressing that Iran is one of the few countries capable of producing fuel rods and plates to be used for peaceful purposes, Salehi said Iran's progress in this ground was a result of the West's lack of cooperation and sanctions.

"Actually the West's attitude made us reach the point."

After Iran announced to the IAEA in 2009 that it had run out of nuclear fuel for its research reactor in Tehran, the Agency proposed a deal according to which Iran would send 3.5-percent-enriched uranium and receive 20-percent-enriched uranium from potential suppliers in return, all through the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

The proposal was first introduced on October 1, 2009 when Iranian representatives and diplomats from the Group 5+1 held high-level talks in Geneva.

But France and the United States, as potentials suppliers, stalled the talks soon after the start. They offered a deal which would keep Tehran waiting for months before it could obtain the fuel, a luxury of time that Iran could not afford as it is about to run out of 20-percent-enriched uranium.

The Iranian parliament rejected the deal after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, while suppliers had announced that they would not return fuel to Iran any less than seven months.

Iran then put forward its own proposal that envisaged a two-staged exchange. According to Tehran's offer, the IAEA would safeguard nearly one third of Iran's uranium stockpile inside the Iranian territory for the time that it took to find a supplier. The western countries opposed Tehran's proposal.

Yet, the western countries opposed Iran's proposal again. Subsequently, Iranian, Brazilian and Turkish officials on May 17, 2010 signed an agreement named the 'Tehran Declaration' which presented a solution to the longstanding standoff between Iran and potential suppliers of nuclear fuel. According to the agreement, Iran would send some 1200 kg of its 3.5% enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for a total 120 kg of 20% enriched fuel.

But again the western countries showed a negative and surprising reaction to the Tehran Declaration and sponsored a sanctions resolution against Iran at the UN Security Council instead of taking the opportunity presented by the agreement.

Russia, France, and the US, in three separate letters, instead of giving a definite response to the Tehran Declaration, raised some questions about the deal, and the US took a draft sanctions resolution against Iran to the UN Security Council, which was later approved by the Council.

Iran in a letter responded to the questions raised by the Vienna Group on the Tehran Declaration and voiced its preparedness to hold talks.

In a later move, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano proposed a plan to resume talks between the two sides, and former Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced Tehran's agreement with Amano's proposal.

"Iran is ready to take part in the meeting brokered by Amano," Mottaki said.

He referred to Iran's letter to Amano in which the country had declared its readiness for talks with the Vienna Group and said, "Mr. Amano has forwarded the letter to other members of the group and it seems that he is arranging for holding the meeting."

Mottaki said that the country wants to determine and approve details of fuel swap through talks with Vienna Group.

Yet, despite all the efforts Iran has made so far to swap or supply fuel from potential suppliers West has refrained to do so.

After Iran saw western suppliers rock the boat and shrug off their responsibility - as enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) statute - it started domestic plans to enrich uranium to the purity level of 20 percent.

In April 2010, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the AEOI head to start domestic plans to supply fuel for the Tehran research reactor which produces radioisotopes for medicinal use.

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