In an effort to get their civilian uranium enrichment program producing nuclear fuel for energy generation, Iran has announced this weekend that they are planning to buy 950 tonnes of uranium ore from Kazakhstan.
Such a deal would of course be perfectly legal under the P5+1 nuclear deal, since uranium ore is by its nature unenriched. Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile is actually under half of the amount allowed in the nuclear deal. As part of the deal, Russia has agreed to provide advisory help to allow Iran to convert enriched uranium to fuel for the Russian-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr.
Iran’s low-enriched uranium enrichment, at 3.5%, was always intended for this purpose, and despite rhetoric trying to present it as a proliferation risk, it was always far below the 90+ percent enrichment that would be needed to even attempt to make a nuclear weapon.
Converting enriched uranium into the fuel for the Russian plant isn’t as easy as the Iranian government had expected, a problem which also happened when they tried to make fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which ultimately saw them trading the uranium for a supply of fuel rods. In the Bushehr case, however, Russia has agreed to talk Iran through the process, and since Iran is seeking more plants in the future from Russia, Russia will likely want to keep them happy with the first plant.
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