Report: Iran Proposed to Freeze Production of 20% Uranium

October 19, 2013  

Iran’s new proposal to resolve the nuclear crisis includes a freeze on production of 20% enriched uranium, a pledge to convert its stockpile to fuel rods and an agreement to relinquish spent fuel for a still-to-be completed heavy water reactor, Al-Monitor reports.

Thursday’s report by Barbara Slavin is based on an Iranian source who has proven reliable in the past.

According to Al-Monitor, the offers, combined with increased scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are meant to provide confidence that Iran could not quickly break out of its nuclear obligations and make nuclear weapons.

The Iranian, who asked not to be identified because this week’s talks in Geneva are confidential, said the proposal presented by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif included two stages, each to last a maximum six months.

In the first stage, the source said, Iran would stop producing 20% enriched uranium and “try to convert the stock” it has amassed to fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, an old American-origin facility that produces medical isotopes.

Iran has already converted or set aside the bulk of the more than 370 kilograms (815 pounds) of uranium it has enriched to 20% but it isn’t clear whether Iranians have the know-how to produce workable fuel rods, the website said.

According to the source, other elements of the proposal include more information about the Arak heavy water reactor, including access by the IAEA to monitor construction of the facility; full monitoring of the underground enrichment plant at Fordow, which would be turned into a research center, and negotiations on limiting the scale of production at the Natanz enrichment plant; and Iranian ratification of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which allows unannounced inspections of nuclear sites.

Representatives of the State Department and the European Union declined comment on the purported elements of the Iranian program, citing their pledge to keep negotiations confidential at this delicate stage.

While the plan contains interesting new ideas, it does not meet previous demands by the United States and its negotiating partners for removing Iran’s stockpile of 20% uranium from Iran, suspending operations at Fordow and halting work on Arak, noted Al-Monitor.

The plan also does not address Iran’s growing stock of low-enriched uranium — some 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds).

Western negotiators have described the latest round of talks with Iran as the most detailed and serious to date. Iran’s proposal was described by the White House as “useful”. White House spokesman Jay Carney said it showed a “level of seriousness and substance that we have not seen before.”

A senior western diplomat, however, cautioned on Thursday that any breakthrough in diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program was “not close”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, denied that the report on his country’s proposal was true.

Zarif said in a Twitter posting on Friday that members of the Iranian negotiating team “are the only ones who know the proposal and they only speak on-the-record. Anonymous sources have no info.”

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