Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has confirmed that Iran is planning to halt the enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent in the near future, expressing hope for “substantial reciprocal steps” toward Iran to keep things amicable with the incoming president.
20 percent is technically “high enriched” uranium, and though far short of the 95% needed to make a bomb, has been angrily condemned by Western nations. Iran has been using the uranium to attempt to produce fuel for the aging Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). Built by the US in the 1960’s, the TRR provides all of Tehran’s isotopes for nuclear medicine.
It may soon be phased out, however. Owing to the difficulty in getting or making fuel rods for the TRR, Iran is working on a new heavy water research reactor at Arak, which would allow them to use unenriched uranium in the production of isotopes. This has been condemned too by Western nations, however, as a technological advancement above and beyond the creaky old TRR.
Israel is unhappy at any rate, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting it was unacceptable for Iran to scrap its 20 percent enrichment and demanding that they mothball the entire enrichment system as well as Arak and the rest of its civilian program unconditionally, adding that Israel would accept no less.
Under its safeguards agreement Iran has every right to a civilian nuclear program. It has said it will continue to produce 3.5 percent enriched uranium for fuel at the Bushehr power plant, a Russian-built site that has been in full operation for only about a year.