Iran says it is converting uranium, easing bomb fears
By Yeganeh Torbati
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran acknowledged on Tuesday that it was converting some of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, a move that could help to prevent a dispute with the West over its nuclear program hitting a crisis in mid-2013.
Conversion is one way for Iran to slow the growth in its stockpile of material that could be used to make a bomb. That stockpile is currently projected to reach a level intolerable to Israel in mid-year, just as Iran's room for negotiation is being limited by a presidential election in June.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was asked at a weekly news conference about a Reuters report that Iran has converted small amounts of its 20-percent enriched uranium into reactor fuel.
"This work is being done and all its reports have been sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a complete manner," he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
It was Iran's first acknowledgment that it had apparently resumed converting into fuel small amounts of uranium enriched to a concentration of 20 percent fissile material.
Iran's production of that higher-grade uranium worries the major powers because it is only a short technical step away from the 90-percent purity needed for a weapon.
On-off negotiations with the major powers and four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions have failed to persuade Iran to stop its enrichment activities, and the IAEA has been refused full access to investigate other suspect elements of the nuclear program.
Iran denies that it is seeking a weapon and says its nuclear program serves only peaceful purposes such as electricity and the production of medical isotopes. Continued...