TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian armed forces chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi said on Friday he backed proposals for Tehran to ship out most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium in return for fuel for a reactor designed to produce medical isotopes.
“We won’t suffer from an exchange of fuel,” the Mehr news agency quoted the general as saying.
“On the contrary, in obtaining fuel enriched to 20 percent purity for the Tehran reactor, a million of our citizens will benefit from the medical treatment it can enable and we will prove at the same time the bona fides of our peaceful nuclear activities.”
The general said he had no particular issue with the amount of low-enriched uranium that Iran shipped out — 1,200 kilos (more than 2,640 pounds) under the current proposals drawn up by the UN nuclear watchdog and approved by the major powers.
“The quantity of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent that will be shipped out in order to obtain the fuel is not so large as to cause damage,” he said.
Under the plan put forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on October 21, Iran would ship out the low-enriched uranium, equivalent to more than 70 percent of its estimated stocks, and Russia would further enrich it before France turned it into fuel for the Tehran reactor.
The proposals are designed to assuage fears that Iran could otherwise divert some of the stocks and enrich them further to the much higher levels of purity required to make an atomic bomb, an ambition Iranian officials strongly deny.
Other Iranian officials have criticised the IAEA proposals, expressing concern that Tehran would be handing over most of its stocks before getting anything in return and that its arch-foe Washington might welch on the deal.
Iranian media say counter-proposals are being circulated under which Tehran would ship out only 800 kilogrammes of low-enriched uranium and do so not in one go but in two installments.