TOPICS > World

Under Nuclear Deal, Russia Would Process Iran’s Enriched Uranium

BY Larisa Epatko  October 21, 2009 at 10:15 AM EST

Uranium conversion facility in Iran

A draft deal — up for Iranian approval by Friday — would require Iran to send most of its existing enriched uranium to Russia for processing, in an attempt to delay Tehran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Wednesday that representatives of Iran, in addition to the United States, Russia and France, had accepted the draft for forwarding to their capitals. ElBaradei said he hoped for approval from all four countries by Friday, reported the Associated Press.

Iran’s top delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh praised the draft, saying it was “on the right track,” while emphasizing that senior Iranian officials in Tehran still had to sign it. “We have to thoroughly study this text and also (need) further elaboration in capitals,” he told reporters.

The draft came on the third day of talks in Vienna geared toward finding a solution to Iran’s nuclear program. The United States and other nations say the program is intended to produce a nuclear weapon, while Tehran says it is for civilian energy purposes.

“Everybody who participated at the meeting was trying to look at the future not at the past, trying to heal the wounds,” ElBaradei said, according to news agencies. “I very much hope that people see the big picture, see that this agreement could open the way for a complete normalization of relations between Iran and the international community.”

Although details of the package were not released publicly, diplomats told the AP it was essentially a proposal originally drafted by the IAEA. That proposal would commit Tehran to shipping 75 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile to Russia for further enrichment. After that material is turned into metal fuel rods, it would then be shipped back to Iran to power its small research reactor in Tehran, according to the draft.

Senior Iranian officials said this week Iran would not curtail enrichment as part of any deal, according to Reuters.

The proposal would commit Iran to turn over more than 2,600 pounds of low-enriched uranium. The commonly accepted amount of low-enriched uranium needed to produce weapons-grade uranium is 2,205 pounds.

David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said any deal would buy only a limited amount of time. He said Tehran could replace 2,600 pounds of low-enriched uranium “in little over a year,” reported the AP.

Iran said Oct. 19 it would start working to increase the level of enrichment in its uranium program to produce fuel for the reactor unless countries supplied it with the material, according to Bloomberg News.