Iran has disconnected nearly a quarter of its uranium-enriching centrifuges in under a month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Wednesday. A confidential IAEA report to its Board of Governors, seen by Bloomberg and Reuters, said Iran had moved about 4,500 centrifuges from their positions at the Natanz and Fordow enrichment locations between October 18 and November 15.
Western sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil and banking sectors could be rescinded by mid-January, based on the rate at which technicians are removing nuclear centrifuges at the Islamic Republic’s uranium-enrichment plants, Bloomberg cited the IAEA report as saying.
Sanctions Lifted By Mid-January?
According to the Wednesday report, Iran removed 4,530 centrifuges during the 28 days ending November 15, representing a rate of 192 centrifuges a day. Bloomberg’s analysis shows that based on current work rates, the country may be able to comply with its part of the July nuclear accord with the P5+1 by January 12.
Recall a key proviso of the July 14 accord: Iran is required to decrease the number of its installed centrifuges from about 19,000 to 5,060. Once IAEA officials verify that Iran has done so, sanctions against its oil and banking sectors will be rescinded.
Two senior diplomats familiar with the IAEA’s activities in Iran told Bloomberg that nuclear monitors have been present in the country during each stage of the centrifuge removal process. The added that the watchdog agency is recording the serial number of every machine that is being removed to verify that nothing goes missing.
Per the July accord, Iran is required to eliminate approximately 8,000 kilograms (17,600 pounds) of enriched uranium. This can be done by diluting it with inert material or exporting it to another country. Further, the core of a heavy-water reactor in Arak also has to be taken offline, Bloomberg reported. These actions have to be taken before sanctions are removed.
The IAEA “has begun conducting preparatory activities related to the verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments,” the agency said. The IAEA is currently establishing remote monitoring technologies and will be ready to put into effect its commitments whenever the Iranians are ready, the diplomats told Bloomberg.
“Much Work Remains To Be Done”
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said the following earlier this week to the UN General Assembly concerning Iran: “Much work remains to be done, but I believe the significant progress made on the Iran nuclear issue represents a real success for diplomacy.”
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano
Amano said the IAEA is now finalizing its analysis “of all the information at our disposal,” and that he will present his final assessment on all past and present outstanding issues concerning Iran’s compliance with the July accord to the IAEA Board of Governors by December 15.
Iranian officials say they have delayed the full implementation of their end of the July accord until this December report, which will detail the IAEA’s findings on whether Iran had worked toward creating nuclear weapons in the past.