A ship carrying more than 25,000 pounds (11,340 kg) of Iranian low-enriched uranium is bound for Russia, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed Monday.
The shipment is “one of the most significant steps” taken by Iran thus far to fulfill a landmark deal to curb its nuclear program, Kerry said in a statement.
The “removal of all this enriched material out of Iran is a significant step toward Iran meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day,” the top U.S. diplomat said.
Under the agreement brokered between the Islamic Republic and world powers on July 14, Iran must remove all but 300 kilograms (660 pounds) or less of its low-enriched stockpile.
That sum is reportedly not enough to build a nuclear weapon.
Kerry said that with Monday’s shipment, Iran’s “breakout time” – how long it would take the country to build a nuclear weapon – “more than triples our previous 2-3 month” timeline.
“The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] now must verify that Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile is 300 kg or less, as well as confirm that Iran has met all of its other key nuclear steps in the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] before Implementation Day can occur,” he said.
The Iran nuclear deal was signed between Tehran and five other world powers last July, which aimed to curb the country's nuclear activities in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions. However, Iran tested a ballistic missile in October which violated a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Nuclear-related sanctions against Iran are to be lifted on “Implementation Day”, injecting the Iranian economy with billions of dollars of long-sought relief. Tehran will also be able to sell its oil on global markets and will be able to operate in international financial markets without repercussion.
Kerry lauded Russia’s role in the shipment process, calling it “essential”, and said that Kazakhstan “contributed significantly” by sending Iran natural uranium material in exchange for its enriched product.
“As we move ever closer to the implementation of the JCPOA, we will remain vigilant to ensure that its implementation achieves exactly what we set out to do from the very beginning of these negotiations, to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is and always remains exclusively for peaceful purposes,” Kerry said.