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Iran Needs Up To 300 Kg Of Nuclear Fuel: Report

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran needs up to 300 kilograns of nuclear fuel to cover the requirements of a reactor in Tehran for a year and a half, an official was quoted as saying on October 10.

Ali Shirzadian, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, also suggested the Islamic Republic could take steps to provide the fuel itself if it did not obtain it from abroad -- a development likely to worry the West.

Western diplomats say Iran agreed in principle at October 1 talks in Geneva to send about 80 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing and return to Tehran to replenish dwindling fuel stocks for a reactor in the capital that produces isotopes for cancer care.

Shirzadian referred to it as Iran's proposal, to turn over low-enriched uranium and receive fuel refined to 20 percent in return, in comments carried by ISNA news agency.

"This proposal is feasible and it has been decided that the different ways of realizing this goal should be discussed," he said.

"The amount of fuel this reactor would need depends on the way the fuel works and it would range from 150 to 300 kilograms for a period of one and a half years," he said.

It was not immediately clear how much uranium Iran would need to send abroad. Iran's low-enriched uranium stocks total around 1.5 metric tons.

Iranian, Russian, French, U.S., and UN nuclear energy agency officials will meet in Vienna on October 19 to flesh out conditions, such as amounts of uranium to be sent abroad, a timetable, and non-proliferation guarantees governing use of the material.

For world powers, the deal's payoff would be in diminishing Iran's stash of low-enriched uranium, which has no apparent civilian use since Iran has no operating nuclear power plants -- but is enough to fuel one atomic bomb should Tehran choose to enrich it further.

For Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful power generation, it would preserve medical isotope production.

Asked what would happen if the powers did not live up to their commitments, Shirzadian said Iran would inform the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the country would proceed in meeting the Tehran reactor's needs itself.

"From an economic perspective it is more frugal for Iran to purchase the reactor's fuel in one bulk rather than to set up an assembly line for 200 kg of uranium with 20 percent concentration," he said.

Iran also agreed at the Geneva meeting to give UN experts access to a newly-disclosed uranium enrichment plant under construction near the city of Qom.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly rejected demands to halt its sensitive nuclear work, despite three rounds of UN sanctions since 2006.