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U.N.: Iran Cuts Nuclear Assets Despite Slow Progress on Uranium Site

A technician works at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion facility in 2007. A project at Isfahan to convert low-enriched uranium to a less weapon-usable form is behind schedule, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a Thursday report. A technician works at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion facility in 2007. A project at Isfahan to convert low-enriched uranium to a less weapon-usable form is behind schedule, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a Thursday report. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran eliminated almost three-fourths of its most bomb-useful uranium, but lags in making other material harder to tap for weapons, Reuters reports.

Tehran has blended down half of its 20 percent-enriched uranium to a lower purity and proceeded in converting yet more of the substance into medical reactor fuel, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a Thursday assessment quoted by the news agency. The Persian Gulf regional power agreed last November to take both actions, as part of a multilateral deal intended as a first step to address global concerns that the government might harness its nuclear capabilities to build weapons.

Iran, which says its atomic activities are nonmilitary in nature, converted 110 pounds of its gaseous 20-percent uranium into solid oxide, the Associated Press quoted the International Atomic Energy Agency as saying in its findings. The nation last year possessed 440 pounds of the higher-purity substance, a quantity nearly sufficient to power a bomb if enriched further.

Meanwhile, the Vienna-based U.N. atomic agency said Iran was behind schedule in separate preparations to convert lower-enriched uranium into oxide at its Isfahan facility, according to Reuters.

The nation last month said it would begin the chemical alteration after launching a site for the process on April 9, the IAEA document indicates. Tehran later postponed the opening, according to the agency, which did not elaborate on the cause of the timing lapse.

"Iran has indicated to the agency that this will not have an adverse impact on the implementation of [its] undertaking," the U.N. organization said in its report.

According to one independent analyst, "the delay is not long enough to raise a red flag."

When the conversion site is "up and running, Iran could retroactively convert any excess material to oxide," said Ali Vaez, a specialist with the International Crisis Group.

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