Backgrounder: Iran's nuclear fuel issue

08:22, May 18, 2010      

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Iran signed a nuclear fuel swap agreement with Turkey and Brazil on Monday.

According to the agreement, Tehran agreed to a draft proposal whereby Iran will send some 1,200 kg of its 3.5 percent enriched uranium over to Turkey in exchange for a total of 120 kg 20 percent uranium needed for a medical research reactor.

Enriched uranium can be used for civilian or military purposes. Civilian enriched uranium is usually under 20 percent, while enrichment of 90 percent is needed to produce material for nuclear warheads.

Iran launched its nuclear development program at the end of the 1950s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program. The support continued until the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran.

As to Iran's current nuclear program, the United States and other Western countries worry that Tehran may obtain the materials needed for nuclear weapons by the same process to purify uranium. However, Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purpose, such as producing fuel for nuclear power plants.

In April 2009, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reported that Iran has an operational uranium facility in the city of Isfahan. In September 2009, Iran admitted to a second nuclear plant inside mountainous areas.

In October 2009, representatives of Iran, Germany and five permanent members of the Security Council meet in Geneva for nuclear talks.

The international community demanded that Iran send its 1.1 tons of low-enriched uranium to Russia in one batch by the end of 2009, but Iran defied the deadline.

In February 2010, Iran announced that it has enhanced low-enriched uranium from 3.5 to 20 percent and that the country is in a position to enrich it to 80 percent.

In reaction, the United States and other Western powers sought a new round of sanctions against Iran.

Source:Xinhua

(Editor:梁军)

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