TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has reacted to a statement by the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany about Iran’s decision to produce silicide fuel using 20-percent enriched uranium, saying the fuel was produced for peaceful purposes.
Khatibzadeh noted that Iran’s decision to produce silicide fuel plates using 20% enriched uranium is for peaceful purposes, and it will only be used in the Tehran research reactor, according to a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
The spokesman said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been informed about Iran’s decision in accordance with the procedures.
In a major announcement on Tuesday, Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharibabadi said Iran will soon produce a highly sophisticated nuclear fuel called uranium silicide fuel.
The ambassador said in a statement that Iran has informed the IAEA of its intention to produce uranium silicide fuel pellet for the Tehran research reactor nine days ago and has immediately made arrangements in that regard.
Silicide fuel is an advanced type of nuclear fuel whose technology is only available to a handful of countries. According to Gharibabadi, Iran has started R&D activities using natural uranium to produce sophisticated fuel over the past three months. “In the new process, one new fuel pellet is to be produced from 20% enriched uranium,” the Iranian diplomat said, adding, “This measure, slated to significantly improve the quality and quantity of producing radiopharmaceuticals, will turn the Islamic Republic of Iran into a pioneering country in terms of nuclear technology.”
The IAEA confirmed the Iranian move, providing technical details about the whole process. “Iran informed the Agency that UO2 (uranium oxide) enriched up to 20% U–235 would be shipped to the R&D laboratory at the Fuel Fabrication Plant in Esfahan, where it would be converted to UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) and then to uranium metal enriched to 20% U–235, before using it to manufacture the fuel,” it said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The move drew criticism from the U.S. and its European allies, who expressed concern about the new fuel production. The three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal -France, Germany and the UK, collectively known as E3 – said they had “grave concern” about Iran producing enriched uranium metal and even accused Iran of “threatening a successful outcome to the Vienna talks,” which have been underway since April to revive the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We the foreign ministers of the governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, note with grave concern the latest report by the IAEA confirming that Iran has taken steps in the production of enriched uranium metal. This is a serious violation of Iran’s commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production,” the E3 foreign ministers said in a joint statement.
The E3 said the Iranian move “is all the more concerning at a time when no date has been set for the continuation of the negotiations in Vienna on a return to the JCPOA.”
Khatibzadeh hit back at the E3 statement, saying that the advanced uranium fuel has peaceful uses. “Contrary to the claims of the E3, this product has peaceful, medicinal and humanitarian uses, and its production does not contradict Iran’s non-proliferation and Safeguards obligations,” Khatibzadeh pointed out.
He further emphasized that while these countries consider Iran’s actions as a violation of its obligations under the JCPOA, they have never gone beyond words regarding their own obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and in line with the U.S. cruel pressure they have implemented Washington’s extraterritorial and unlawful sanctions.
“We have repeatedly emphasized that Iran is ready to suspend its compensatory measures and to fully resume the fulfillment of its obligations as soon as the oppressive sanctions are lifted. No one should expect Iran to unilaterally comply with its commitments while it is under intense pressure of unilateral sanctions,” he noted.
Khatibzadeh stated that voluntary access to transparency measures beyond the Safeguards, including the provisional and voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, will be carried out by Iran in accordance with the provisions of the JCPOA if the Vienna talks are concluded.
He added that the concerns raised in this regard are of no use and the U.S. State Department spokesman’s position on this issue is unacceptable.
“The U.S. is expressing concern about Iran’s actions, while the current situation concerning the JCPOA is due to Washington’s illegal and unilateral actions and approaches, as this country has continued to implement Donald Trump’s failed maximum pressure policy on the Iranian people during the Biden administration as well,” the spokesman continued.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman finally emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always expressed its readiness to resume the implementation of its obligations in the event of the lifting of U.S. sanctions, and during the Vienna talks it has clearly conveyed these points to the other parties.