Iran to turn uranium into reactor fuel under extended deal: source

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran will convert more of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel under an extended nuclear deal with world powers, making the material less suitable for building atomic bombs, a diplomatic source and a U.S. think-tank said on Monday.

Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, about 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Mehr News Agency/Majid Asgaripour

Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia failed to meet a Nov. 24 deadline for resolving their dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program. They gave themselves until the end of June for further negotiations.

It was the second time this year they had missed a self-imposed target for a comprehensive agreement under which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for an end to sanctions hobbling Tehran’s economy.

As a result, a preliminary accord reached in late 2013 will remain in force. Under its terms, Iran halted its most sensitive nuclear activity in return for limited easing of sanctions.

Accordingly, Iran earlier this year eliminated its stockpile of uranium gas enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, a relatively short technical step away from weapons-grade material. A large part of it was processed into oxide.

When the deal was first extended in July, Iran undertook to move further away from potential weapons material by converting 25 kg of the uranium oxide - a quarter of the total - into nuclear fuel during the initial four-month extension.

The diplomatic source said Iran would now continue this work and he suggested around 5 kg would be converted per month.

The U.S.-based Arms Control Association said 35 kg of uranium oxide would be turned into fuel over s seven-month period. It said Iran had also made specific commitments limiting its development of advanced centrifuges to refine uranium.

In July, a U.S. official said that once the oxide had been turned into fuel plates, Iran would “find it quite difficult and time-consuming” to use it in any effort to develop a bomb.

In a letter seen by Reuters on Monday, Iran and the six powers asked the U.N. nuclear watchdog to continue checks that Tehran is honoring its undertakings, including “monitoring of fuel fabrication” for a Tehran research reactor.

The governing board of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency will hold an extraordinary meeting in Vienna on Dec. 11 to discuss its monitoring of the nuclear deal extension.

Iran denies seeking a nuclear weapons capability, saying its atomic energy program is meant to generate electricity.

Editing by Mark Heinrich