Iranian nuclear facility.
(photo credit: screenshot)
WASHINGTON – Iran has shipped all of its low-enriched uranium to Russia, fulfilling a key prerequisite requirement of its nuclear accord with world powers, the US hailed on Monday.
The move is one of several steps Tehran must take in order to reach “Implementation Day” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a pact which places years-long checks on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for US, EU and UN sanctions relief.
In order to reach Implementation Day, Iran must neuter its plutonium reactor, reduce its nuclear enrichment capacity and stockpile, and increase access and transparency at its declared nuclear facilities, among other steps.
As soon as Iran completes those steps – a process the Obama administration believed would take between four and six months – the IAEA will declare Iran in compliance of the pact, and the country will begin receiving relief.
The government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is understood to be expediting the process, with an eye toward reaching Implementation Day before scheduled parliamentary elections in February.
The shipment of over 25,000 pounds of enriched material – below weapons- grade, but with the potential to become weaponized with further refinement – was facilitated with the help of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Norway.
“This removal of all this enriched material out of Iran is a significant step toward Iran meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said. “The shipment today more than triples our previous 2-3 month breakout timeline for Iran to acquire enough weapons-grade uranium for one weapon, and is an important piece of the technical equation that ensures an eventual breakout time of at least one year.”
The JCPOA requires that Iran remain one year away from acquiring the requisite fissile material for a nuclear weapon for a decade. Tehran may then expand the size and efficiency of its nuclear infrastructure, which will shrink the breakout time, according to US President Barack Obama.