US Reporter

Iran slows its enrichment of near-weapons-grade uranium

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According to a United Nations report, Iran has slowed the rate at which it enriches uranium to virtually weapons-grade levels.

According to a report seen by The Associated Press on Monday from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, Iran has slowed the rate at which it enriches uranium to virtually weapons-grade levels. That could be an indication that Tehran is attempting to defuse tensions with the US after years of hostility.

The confidential assessment comes at a time when Iran and the US are negotiating a prisoner swap and the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets held in South Korea. However, international inspectors discovered additional difficulties in monitoring Iran’s program.

In order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, international powers reached an agreement with Tehran in 2015 under which it committed to limit uranium enrichment to levels required for nuclear power in exchange for the relaxation of economic sanctions. Inspectors from the United Nations were responsible with overseeing the program.

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew the United States from the agreement, claiming he would negotiate a better deal. A year later, Iran began violating the terms.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s estimate, Iran possesses 121.6 kilos (268 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 60%. That implies its fuel stockpile is rising at the weakest rate since 2021.

According to a May report, the stockpile weighed just over 114 kilograms (250 pounds). In February, it weighed 87.5 kilos (192 pounds).

The Iranian delegation to the United Nations in New York did not reply quickly to a request for comment Monday.

Uranium enhanced to 60% purity is only a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90% purity. Iran has insisted that its program is peaceful, but the IAEA’s director-general has warned that Tehran has enough enriched uranium to construct “several” nuclear weapons if it so desires.

Iran would most likely need months to develop a weapon. According to US intelligence services, Tehran “is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that would be required to produce a testable nuclear device.” According to the IAEA, the West, and other countries, Iran had a secret military nuclear program that was terminated in 2003.

According to the IAEA report, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile is 3,795.5 kilograms (8,367 pounds). This represents a decrease from the previous IAEA report, which put the stockpile at 4,744.5 kilos (10,459 pounds). According to reports, the stockpile has decreased because Iran has diluted some of its enriched uranium.

US President Joe Biden has stated that he would be open to re-enter a nuclear deal with Iran, but official talks to find a way to revive the pact fell apart in August 2022. Since then, Oman and Qatar have mediated indirect discussions between Iran and the United States, which have resulted in the present scheduled prisoner swap and asset release.

South Korea owing Iran

According to that suggestion, anywhere from $6 billion to $7 billion in South Korean won would be converted into euros, depending on exchange rates. The cash is money owing to Iran by South Korea but not yet paid for oil purchased before the Trump administration implemented sanctions on such transactions in 2019.

The US claims that once in Qatar, the funds will be stored in limited accounts and used solely for humanitarian purposes, such as medication and food. These transactions are now permitted under US sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic for its nuclear program.

In exchange, Iran would free five Iranian-American detainees who are currently under house detention. The US is also likely to release Iranian captives, though the details are unclear. If that arrangement goes through, it might increase the prospects of the nuclear talks resuming – though Biden is already under harsh criticism from Republicans and others over the prisoner swap.

While Iran has reduced enrichment, the IAEA has reported significant difficulties in monitoring its program. According to the report obtained by the AP from the watchdog, Iran denied visas to agency staff and hampered their capacity to function in other ways.

Iran has refused to accept the visa denials.

The IAEA also hasn’t been able to view surveillance camera footage since February 2021 under Iranian limitations, while the sole recorded data since June 2022 has been from cameras at a workshop in the Iranian city of Isfahan.

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