The Move Jeopardizes Russia’s “Step-by-Step” Proposal to Resolve Nuclear Impasse
The Director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Fereydoun Abbasi said in Tehran that Iran will continue producing 20-percent enriched uranium in Fordu nuclear plant. Abbasi’s declaration all but ended any hopes for Russia’s latest attempt to restart nuclear negotiations between Iran and major world powers. As part of its “step-by-step” proposal, Russia was believed to push for the revival of a fuel swap agreement whereby Iran would send its 3.5-percent fuel abroad, namely to Turkey, in exchange for 20-percent enriched uranium.
"Producing 20-percent enriched uranium in Iran continues and will not be stopped," Abbasi said on Monday. "By producing 20-percent uranium, we have surpassed the required amount for the production of fuel for Tehran research reactor,” Abbasi added [IRNA, 29 August].
Abbasi said, however, that since Iran’s future reactors need more 20-percent enriched uranium, Iran plans to resume enrichment in Fordu plant. The critics argue that producing the higher-grade enriched uranium at large quantities for reactors that are not even at pre-construction stages would bring into question the goal of the country’s enrichment program.
Earlier this month, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, had characterized Russia’s “step-by-step” proposal as “good strategy.” The approach called for the international community to ease economic sanctions against Iran for each step Iran took toward meeting demands to curb weapon-related projects. The revival of a fuel swap agreement, which in a limited form was the centerpiece of last year's Tehran Agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, was apparently going to be the first of those steps.