Watchdog: Iran has diluted half of nuke capability


Iran has diluted half of its material that can be turned into weapons-grade uranium, according to the international nuclear watchdog.

Diplomats told the Associated Press the report to be released this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finds Iran has fulfilled its promise to dilute half of its 20 percent-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium. Iran is converting the other half into oxide, which is used to fuel reactors.

Twenty-percent enriched uranium is one step away from 90 percent, which is used to arm nuclear weapons.

At the end of 2013, Iran had already accumulated enough of the 20-percent enriched uranium to build a single nuclear bomb, the AP notes. 

Iran’s progress in reducing its uranium levels is the result of the interim nuclear deal Iran reached last November with the P5+1 — the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, China and Russia.

The six-month deal took effect in late January, and negotiators wrapped up their third round of negotiations last week in Vienna to sort out issues that could lead to a final nuclear deal with Iran.

Iran has until June to fulfill the interim deal’s requirements. A senior Obama administration official recently said diplomats would begin drafting a final deal in May.

The IAEA’s report is expected to be released on Wednesday or Thursday. 

The United States’ decision last week to deny a visa to Iran’s nominated ambassador to the United Nations could pose a problem in the talks.

The State Department has said it doesn’t foresee the visa interfering in the nuclear negotiations, but Iran has already lodged a formal complaint with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a U.N. committee.

U.S. officials claim Iran’s nominee was involved in the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis when Americans were held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days.  

Nuclear negotiators, meanwhile, are currently slated for a fourth round of negotiations in Vienna in mid-May.