Russia’s negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna said Thursday that Moscow could help revive the Iran nuclear deal by shipping out excess enriched uranium.
Speaking to media, including Iran International’s reporter in Vienna after Thursday's talks, Mikhail Ulyanov said Russia was willing to remove any uranium enriched by Iran since 2019 that surpasses the limits of the 2015 agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). He added that no decision had yet been taken.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in November that Iran had stockpiled 2,490kg of enriched uranium – way above the 300kg cap allowed under the JCPOA. This included 114kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent, and 18kg to 60 percent, neither of which is permitted under the 2015 agreement, which limited domestic enrichment to 3.67 percent.
Ulyanov added that it remained possible that Russia would implement a joint project with Iran to help produce stable isotopes − which have a broad variety of applications including agricultural and medical − at Iran's Fordow enrichment facility.
Such work requires uranium enriched to at least 20 percent. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran was required to import such ‘highly enriched uranium’ where needed for medical and other civil purposes, including the Tehran Research Reactor, but this became problematic when the United States left the JCPOA and imposed ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions.
Moscow ceased its co-operation with Iran over producing isotopes at the Fordow facility in 2019 when the US revoked a waiver ‘allowing’ Moscow to engage in the project without the threat of punitive American action. After Russia's withdrawal, Behrouz Kamalvandi, deputy chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), said Iran was able to produce 11 different types of isotopes without Russia's help.
Agreement by mid-February?
Ulyanov described the latest round of talks this week in positive terms and said an agreement on restoring the JCPOA was realistic by the first half of February although several important political and technical issues remained. "We talk about a multipage draft, you can't just identify just one or two problematic areas," he noted.
Asked about "verification of the lifting of sanctions,” Ulyanov said it was up to Iran to specify exactly what it wanted, and that other parties to the deal were looking for ways to provide Iran with some guarantee the US would not again renege on commitments: "I believe nobody here wants a repetition of the previous exercise in a couple of years."
Before his return to Tehran, as talks broke for three days Thursday, Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani said the latest round had focused on lifting sanctions, with “relatively good progress” made, and on verification. A western diplomat involved in the talks told Iran International Wednesday that indirect exchanges between the Iranian and US delegation had picked up pace.