Iran complies with nuclear deal: UN watchdog

AFP , Friday 24 Feb 2017

Outside view of the UN building with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, office inside, in Vienna, Austria (Photo: AP)

Iran is complying with a landmark atomic deal signed with major world powers in 2015, according to a report from the UN nuclear watchdog seen by AFP Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's report showed that Iran "has not pursued the construction of the existing heavy water research reactor" and has "not enriched uranium" above the 3.67 percent-limit imposed on Tehran.

Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, material which can be used for peaceful purposes but when further processed for a nuclear weapon, has not risen about the agreed level of 300 kilos (660 pounds).

The level of so-called heavy water has not exceeded the permitted level of 130 tonnes, as it did briefly during previous reporting periods.

Heavy water, a modified form of normal water, is used in certain types of nuclear reactors.

Plutonium for use in nuclear weapons can be extracted from fuel rods used in heavy water reactors.

In November 2016, the atomic watchdog noted that Iran had crept above the 130-tonne limit set by the deal.

But since then, Tehran has shipped out the excessive amount and the latest report showed that its current stock was just above 124 tonnes.

The report also noted that "Iran has not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and development activities" at its Fordo nuclear plant.

Verification by the IAEA has continued as agreed, according to the fifth quarterly assessment since the pact was struck in July 2015.

Under the accord, Iran dramatically scaled back nuclear activities in order to put atomic weapons out of its reach -- an aim Tehran always denied having -- in exchange for the relief of crippling sanctions.

The agreement extends to at least a year the length of time Tehran would need to make one nuclear bomb's worth of fissile material -- up from a few months before the accord.

Steps taken by Iran included slashing by two-thirds its uranium centrifuges, cutting its stockpile of uranium -- several tonnes before the deal, enough for several bombs -- and removing the core of the Arak reactor which could have given Iran weapons-grade plutonium.

But the deal, endorsed by the European Union, has been on shaky ground since the recent inauguration of US President Donald Trump who called it the "worst deal ever negotiated" and has threatened to dismantle it.

Tensions between Iran and Washington soared further after the Islamic republic carried out a missile test on January 29, followed by army drills. The White House responded by slapping fresh sanctions on Tehran's weapons procurement network, despite Iran's insistence that its military power was "purely defensive".

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