VIENNA Dec 23 Iran and the major powers with
which it reached a landmark nuclear accord in 2015 have agreed
on clarifications that diplomats say will reduce the amount of
enriched uranium that counts towards a limit set by the deal.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog circulated the clarifications,
laid out in eight documents, to its member states on Friday
after receiving them from the office of European Union foreign
policy chief Federica Mogherini, who coordinates the main forum
for discussions created by the deal, the Joint Commission.
"These documents are merely providing clarifications,
developed by the Joint Commission, for the implementation of
Iran's nuclear-related measures as set out in the JCPOA,"
Mogherini's office said in an attached letter, using the deal's
full name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is policing
the deal's restrictions on Iranian atomic activities to help
ensure they are not put to developing a nuclear weapon. The
accord also lifted sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The IAEA has already expressed concern to Iran about its
repeated testing of one of the deal's less strictly defined
limits - its stock of heavy water, a substance used as a
moderator in reactors like Iran's unfinished one at Arak, which
has had its core removed to make it unusable.
Diplomats have said Iran has come close to exceeding other
limits under the deal, particularly the 300 kg (661 pound) cap
on its stock of enriched uranium, a breach of which would most
likely be far more damaging than excess heavy water.
There was concern during a visit to Iran this week by IAEA
chief Yukiya Amano that Iran was about to go over that
threshold, diplomats said. There is also great uncertainty about
how U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, a vocal critic of the
deal, will handle any future difficulties that arise with Iran.
"It was close," one diplomat who follows Iran closely said,
without giving a figure. "If they had gone over the limit while
he was there, that would have been embarrassing."
The 45 pages of often highly technical documents circulated
on Friday specify, among other things, items that do not count
towards Iran's uranium stockpile, such as some unrecoverable
material left in pipes.
"All current low-level solid waste contaminated with
low-enriched uranium (LEU) ..., which is deemed unrecoverable,
is not part of Iran's enriched uranium stockpile as specified in
the JCPOA provided that Iran does not build or operate any
facility or part of a facility capable of recovering LEU from
solid waste for 15 years," one typically worded clause said.
How much difference exactly the clarifications will make to
the size of Iran's uranium stockpile is not clear. The IAEA does
not give estimates in its reports on Iran to member states,
which has drawn criticism from some countries, though it liaises
with major powers that reached the deal with Tehran.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Mark Heinrich)