Saturday, December 3, 2022

Russia’s Work at Fordow Halted for Technical Problem: Iran

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi rejects allegations that Russia has halted its work at Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility due to US sanctions, saying the cooperation has been stopped because of technical problem.

TVEL, a company that is part of Russia’s atomic agency Rosatom, recently decided to stop work at Iran’s Fordow nuclear site, raising allegations that Moscow is complying with the US sanctions on Iran.

Speaking in a press conference in Tehran, Mousavi denied such allegations and said Russia has not withdrawn cooperation with the Islamic Republic.

“We do not infer that Russia has withdrawn cooperation with Iran,” he said.

He then referred to Moscow’s explanation about the decision, and said, “We acknowledge the technical problem as the reason for the halt.”

“Iranian and Russian technical experts are examining the problem,” the spokesman went on to say.

TVEL announced earlier this month the suspension of its work to upgrade the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant because Iran fed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into two gas centrifuge cascades located in the same room as the cascades meant to be reengineered for stable medical isotope production.

TVEL said it was “technologically impossible” to implement the Fordow project at this time.

Uranium enrichment and stable medical isotope production cannot be sustained in the same room because air and equipment are exposed to UF6 “leftovers”, making the produced stable medical isotopes unsuitable for medical purposes, TVEL said on December 5.

“To resume this work, it will be necessary to stop and dismantle the cascades in which uranium enrichment takes place and to thoroughly clean the premises and equipment. Until these conditions are met, work on the project from the Russian side has been suspended,” it said.

Since 2017, TVEL has been engaged in modifying two gas centrifuge cascades at the Fordow facility, intended for producing stable isotopes (xenon and tellurium) for medical purposes. The works were carried out in compliance with the JCPOA dated 14 July 2015. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the JCPOA Joint Commission were regularly updated on project progress, TVEL said.

TVEL’s suspension follows a US announcement last month that the waiver allowing foreign companies to work at Fordow will end on 15 December.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier this month that this pressure had “created a difficult environment” for Russia and other participants in the JCPOA.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Ryabkov as saying that Russia is suspending its participation in the project to “analyse the possibilities and potential negative consequences of the American measures” but was not stopping it altogether.

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