Official: Iran Starts Suspending 20% Enrichment, Oxidizing Stockpile

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran began on Monday to suspend the production of 20 percent enriched uranium in Natanz and Fordow nuclear facilities, a senior official said, adding that the process of converting the 20% enriched uranium stockpile into oxide has also commenced.

Official: Iran Starts Suspending 20% Enrichment, Oxidizing Stockpile

“In line with the implementation of the Geneva Joint Plan of Action, the Islamic Republic of Iran suspended the production of 20 percent enriched uranium in Natanz and Fordow sites in the presence of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors,” Mohammad Amiri, director general for the safeguards affairs at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said on Monday.

Moreover, Amiri noted, Iran has also begun the process of diluting and oxidizing its 196-kilogram stockpile of uranium enriched to the fissile concentration of 20 percent.

“From now on, the centrifuges which were used for producing 20 percent uranium enrichment will be used for enriching five percent uranium," Amiri added.

Iran’s move to freeze parts of its nuclear activities comes under a breakthrough nuclear deal with the six major world powers, reached in Geneva in November.

Iran and the Group 5+1 (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany) had on November 24, 2013, signed a six-month deal on Tehran’s nuclear program based on which the world powers agreed to suspend some non-essential sanctions and to impose no new nuclear-related bans in return for Tehran's decision to freeze parts of its nuclear activities and to allow more inspection of its nuclear facilities.

The deal (also known as the Joint Plan of Action) came into force today, with the two sides gearing up to take balanced, proportional steps in a period of six months to pave the way for a final solution.

Meanwhile, Reuters said on Monday that it has obtained a confidential UN atomic agency report which confirms that Iran's partial nuclear freeze has begun as planned.

Earlier in the day, a team of IAEA made a visit to the Natanz nuclear facility to verify whether Tehran would honor its commitment to the Geneva nuclear deal.

The team, led by Massimo Aparo, head of Iran Task Force in the Department of Safeguards of the IAEA, is tasked with reporting to the UN nuclear body on the start of the implementation of the Geneva nuclear deal.

According to Reuters, the IAEA report to member states also noted that “the Agency confirms that, as of 20 January 2014, Iran ... has ceased enriching uranium above 5 percent U-235 at the two cascades at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and four cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) previously used for this purpose."

It was referring to Iran’s two enrichment plants, at Natanz and Fordow. Cascades are interlinked networks of centrifuge machines that refine uranium.

The IAEA report also said Iran was, as of January 20, not "conducting any further advances" to its activities at the Arak heavy water research reactor.

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