The US and five other world powers have approved Iran importing as much as 130 tons of uranium, Iran’s English language Press TV reported.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, was quoted as saying “the Joint Commission monitoring the implementation of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 approved the purchase on the part of Iran during a meeting in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Wednesday”.
Mr Kamalvandi said the country had previously bought 220 tons of the material, and was currently in possession of a total of 350 tons.
“Given that this amounts to a valuable resource, it places us in a very favourable position,” he said.
The incoming US administration and many US politicians are already sceptical of how effective the nuclear deal is in keeping Iran’s nuclear programme peaceful over the long term and might view it as further evidence that Tehran is being given too many concessions.
Other US officials have argued, however, that such shipments would neither endanger nor violate the Iran nuclear deal.
State department spokesman John Kirby told reporters there was no prohibition on such imports by Iran and noted natural uranium “cannot be used … for a weapon” in its original form.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said such arrangements are “subject to the careful monitoring and inspections that are included in the deal to ensure that Iran is living up to the commitments that they made”.
Despite present restrictions on its enrichment programme, however, the amount of natural uranium is significant should Iran decide to keep it in storage, considering its potential uses once some limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities start to expire in less than a decade.
David Albright, whose Institute of Science and International Security often briefs US politicians on Iran’s nuclear programme, said the shipment could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium for more than 10 simple nuclear bombs, “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon”.
The nuclear deal limits Iran’s ability to enrich uranium above 3.6% in exchange for the lifting of some international economic sanctions.
It allows Iran to conduct peaceful atomic research.