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US Hails Iran’s Progress on Nuclear Deal

FILE - An Iranian technician walks through the Uranium Conversion Facility in Iran in February 2007.
FILE - An Iranian technician walks through the Uranium Conversion Facility in Iran in February 2007.

Iran has taken one of its most significant steps toward fulfilling its commitment to the nuclear deal, says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry said that step took place Monday, when a ship carrying more than 11,300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium materials left Iran for Russia.

The removal of enriched uranium is among the hurdles that Iran needs to clear under the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in order to get relief from nuclear-related sanctions.

Other hurdles include removing thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, and redesigning a heavy water reactor so that it cannot be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

“The shipment today more than triples our previous two-to-three month breakout timeline for Iran to acquire enough weapons-grade uranium for one weapon,” said Kerry in a statement.

When the JCPOA is implemented, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany say Iran’s breakout time will have increased to at least a year.

'Significant step'

Monday’s removal of uranium is a “significant step” toward Iran meeting its commitment to have “no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day,” Kerry added.

Iran and world powers have dubbed “Implementation Day” as the day in which Iran meets all of the provisions in the JCPOA and is, as a result, eligible for sanctions relief.

In a statement carried in Iranian state media Monday, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi echoed comments made by President Hassan Rouhani earlier this month, saying he expects Implementation Day to occur next month.

"We will witness implementation of the JCPOA by mid-January, God willing," Araqchi said.

The U.S. and other world powers have not predicted a date.

They say Implementation Day will not occur until the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, verifies Iran’s compliance with provisions in the nuclear deal.