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TVEL has announced 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.

Iran's action followed its withdrawal from some of the obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and TVEL's announcement yesterday came on the eve of the next round of talks between Iran and the JCPOA signatories at the International Atomic Energy Agency's headquarters in Vienna.

TVEL, the nuclear fuel manufacturer subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, 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.

"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 yesterday 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.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 07 December 2019
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