The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms that Iran has halted higher-grade uranium enrichment under a ground-breaking deal with six world powers.
VIENNA, AUSTRIA ( JANUARY 20, 2014) (REUTERS) - Iran has halted its most disputed nuclear activity under a ground-breaking deal with six world powers, paving the way for the easing of some Western sanctions against Tehran.
"They have stopped producing the 20 percent uranium. They also ceased to use the tandem configuration of the centrifuges. In other words, the inter-connections have been removed from the place, the [inaudible] process of the 20 percent uranium has started," IAEA Deputy Director General and chief IAEA inspector Tero Varjoranta told reporters at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna on Monday (January 20).
Varjoranta said the U.N. agency's work to verify that Iran had carried out the agreed steps had gone "very well and the inspectors were easily able to carry out their work.
"We had a very busy weekend, and the weekend in Iran went very well, and good cooperation, and we could do our work in a very effective way," he said.
Iran was also continuing to convert some of its reserve into oxide for producing reactor fuel, the IAEA said, making the material less suitable for any attempt to manufacture bombs. Iran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.
The IAEA will play a pivotal role in checking that Iran lives up to its part of the interim accord by curbing uranium enrichment in exchange for some relaxation of international sanctions that are severely damaging its oil-dependent economy.
It has had one to two teams of two inspectors, each on the ground in Iran virtually every day of the year to check there is no diversion of nuclear materials, but that number will now increase significantly.
Iran has been enriching uranium to 20 percent concentration of the fissile U-235 isotope since early 2010, stoking Western alarm over the nature of its nuclear programme.
While that activity has now stopped, it will continue to produce lower-level uranium with an enrichment level of up to five percent under the nuclear agreement with the six world powers - the United States,France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia.
The IAEA also listed other measures Iran had agreed to undertake as part of the six-month accord, including an agreement not to build any more enrichment sites during the next half year.
During this period, Iran and the powers will seek to negotiate a final settlement of Tehran's decade-old nuclear stand-off.
Enriched uranium can have both military and civilian purposes. Iran denies Western allegations that it has been seeking to develop the capability to make nuclear bombs, saying it wants only to generate electricity from enrichment.