Iran’s nuclear chief said it would have 60 percent more stockpiled uranium than it did prior to its landmark 2015 agreement with world powers after a shipment expected later this week.
Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency on Sunday as saying that Iran would receive a final batch of 149 tons of natural uranium by Tuesday, in addition to 210 tons already delivered since early 2016.
The huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia was to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats said earlier this month, in a move approved by the outgoing US administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact.
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.
Under the nuclear accord, Iran’s import of uranium is supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran agreed to curb enrichment and place its nuclear program under international surveillance in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Diplomats 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 for use as reactor fuel.
Despite present restrictions on its enrichment program, the amount of natural uranium is significant should Iran decide to keep it in storage, considering its potential uses once some limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities start to expire in less than a decade.
David Albright, whose Institute of Science and International Security often briefs US lawmakers on Iran’s nuclear program, said earlier this month the shipment could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium for more than 10 simple nuclear bombs, “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”
The swap is in compensation for the 70 metric tons (77 tons) of heavy water exported by Iran to the United States, Russia and Oman since the nuclear agreement went into effect.
Heavy water is used to cool a type of reactor that produces more plutonium than reactors cooled by light water. Like enriched uranium, plutonium can be turned into the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.