In the clearest statement to date of Tehran’s attitude to the U.S.-backed proposal for a nuclear fuel swap as a step towards building trust with Washington, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said his government takes a positive view of the plan provided the exchange of enriched uranium takes place inside Iran.
Mr. Mottaki told The Hindu in an exclusive interview on Monday that Iran is not keen to send its own nuclear fuel out of the country before the fuel it is to receive for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) arrives on its territory.
Under the original proposal made last month by the U.S. and its partners, Iran is supposed to ship 1200 kg of 3.5 per cent low enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia, where it would be further enriched to 20 per cent. The 20 per cent LEU would then be sent to France for fabrication into fuel rods. Eventually, the rods would be shipped to Iran for use in the TRR, which produces medical isotopes.
Mr. Mottaki said Iran and was in the process of sending and receiving suggestions to the other side. With a positive view regarding the essence and nature of the proposal, we are reviewing the possibility of exchanging this fuel inside Iran.
Asked whether the insistence on exchange inside Iran meant the TRR fuel must come first, Mr. Mottaki replied: Well, if there is going to be any exchange of fuel inside Iran, this must mean one side of the fuel exists in Iran and the other side should come, the 20 per cent.
The U.S. says its main interest in the original proposal of Iran shipping out virtually its entire stockpile of LEU is to buy time, since the fuel would no longer be available for weaponisation should Tehran choose to break out of the NPT.