Iran to send enriched uranium to Russia

DUBAI • Iran will export most of its enriched uranium to Russia in the coming days as it rushes to implement a nuclear deal and secure relief from international sanctions, Teheran's nuclear chief said.

Drastically reducing its stock of enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons, was at the heart of the deal Iran reached in July with a group of six world powers.

Under its terms, Iran must cut its stockpile to around 300kg and mothball most of the centrifuges that produce the enriched fuel.

"In the next few days, around nine tonnes of Iran's enriched uranium will be exported to Russia," nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by state news agency Irna last Saturday.

President Hassan Rouhani's government is aiming to get sanctions lifted by the end of next month, to boost pro-government candidates in Feb 26 elections to Parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chooses the Supreme Leader.

That is roughly the amount that Iran must export to bring its stock down to the required level. He added that the enriched uranium would be taken out of Iran on board a Russian ship. Iran has already received a shipment of yellowcake, an unenriched uranium compound, from Russia in exchange for the stockpile.

Iran must also remove the core of a heavy water reactor at Arak so it cannot be used to produce plutonium, another potential bomb-making source. Once the United Nations verifies those steps, international sanctions will be lifted, giving Iran access to global markets for the first time in years.

President Hassan Rouhani's government is aiming to get sanctions lifted by the end of next month, to boost pro-government candidates in Feb 26 elections to Parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chooses the Supreme Leader.

Iran is set to reap an economic windfall once sanctions are lifted.

Nevertheless, the economy has stagnated since the deal was reached as consumers hold off on spending until the market opens up. With no improvement to the quality of life, the government risks losing its "nuclear dividend" if sanctions have not been lifted before the elections; hardliners against the deal would stand to gain.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2015, with the headline 'Iran to send enriched uranium to Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe