According to Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization is in the process of designing a new, modern fuel for reactors like the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), which uses 20% enriched uranium.
The TRR was built by the United States in 1967, and 52 years later is the lone source of medical isotopes in Iran. Iran has long struggled to get fuel for the reactor, and before the P5+1 nuclear deal made efforts to produce the old fuel rods for it themselves.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran is limited in its ability to produce nuclear fuel, and any design would have to be approved by the deal’s signatories. Salehi says Iran believes a modern fuel design will improve efficiency for the old reactor.
Since Iran is at present only producing 3.67% enriched uranium fuel for their energy reactor, bumping up to 20% for the TRR, even with a safer modern design is likely to rile the US and lead to them condemning the Iran deal once again. Yet since the US has already withdrawn from the pact, they would no longer be part of the working group that would decide if the fuel design is permitted under the deal.
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