ISIS Iran Report

Iran’s Lack of Experience in Making TRR Fuel Elements Leaves Room for LEU Fuel Swap

Iran’s Lack of Experience in Making TRR Fuel Elements Leaves Room for LEU Fuel Swap photo

June 24, 2010

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, announced yesterday that Iran had produced 17 kg of 19.75 percent enriched uranium at Natanz.  He said that the fuel will be used to operate the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).  Iran’s inexperience in making fuel elements for the TRR raises questions about its claims that it needs to continue enriching up to 19.75 percent, especially given how soon Iran says it intends to produce fuel elements for the reactor.  It also leaves open an opportunity to negotiate a Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) swap deal.

In February 2010, Iran announced that President Ahmadinejad had instructed the AEOI to “start production of 20 percent enriched uranium.”  Iran said that it was justified in enriching a portion of its stock of 5 percent uranium to 20 percent because it needed to make new fuel for the TRR for the production of medical isotopes.  The TRR is set to run out of fuel within the next few years

Yet, Iran has still not learned to make research reactor fuel for the TRR.  Salehi said in June 2010 that the production of experimental fuel elements is slated for completion in March 2011, and Iran hopes to produce the TRR’s first batch of fuel elements by September 2011.

This paradox indicates that there is still time for a Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel swap deal, which would be in Iran’s interest if it intends on fueling the TRR soon.

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