July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Iran has sent additional 20 percent-enriched uranium to its Tehran medical research reactor to be used as fuel, according to the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereidoun Abbasi.
A fourth batch of nuclear fuel has been produced locally and sent to the reactor, Abbasi said today, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Iran says the Tehran reactor produces isotopes to diagnose and treat cancer.
Iran’s uranium enrichment work has been at the heart of a standoff between the Persian Gulf country and the U.S. and its allies. They want Iran to stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium and move current stockpiles out of the country to show that it isn’t seeking the capability to produce atomic weapons. The U.S. has urged Israel to refrain from a threatened military attack on Iran over its atomic program.
Nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers resumed earlier this year and expert level talks between Iranian and Western negotiators are scheduled on July 24 in Istanbul in an effort to overcome sticking points and schedule higher level negotiations.
Iran said it started loading domestically produced fuel plates into its nuclear research reactor in February.
Speaking today, Abbasi also said that the nation does not seek to enrich uranium at higher purity levels than that needed for its medical reactor.
“If we ever need uranium enriched at higher than 20 percent we would first communicate this need to the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Abbasi said.
Though Iran has the ability to opt for nuclear fuel for its ships and submarines, as suggested by several parliamentary members, it doesn’t plan to do so, Abbasi was cited as saying by IRNA.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel or at higher concentrations can form the core of a bomb. Uranium enriched to levels higher than 20 percent purity brings Iran closer to the 90 percent level used in most atomic weapons.
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