U.S. and Iranian officials confirmed on Monday that the United States had completed a $8.6 million taxpayer-funded purchase of Iranian nuclear materials, a deal undertaken by the Obama administration to keep Iran in compliance with last summer’s nuclear agreement.
Abbas Araghchi, a top Iranian diplomat and negotiator of the deal, announced on Iranian television that the United States had moved forward with the purchase of 32 tons of heavy water for a price of $8.6 million. That money is said to have been successfully transferred to Iran, according to Persian language reports in the country’s state-run media.
An Energy Department spokesperson, speaking on background to the Free Beacon, confirmed the purchase.
"I can confirm reports that the DOE Isotope Program has completed the acquisition of 32 metric tons of heavy water from Iran," the spokesperson said.
One U.S. official told the Free Beacon that while the deal is being announced officially now, it was actually concluded in April, when the administration first announced it.
"The heavy water deal was really concluded in April and it just took a few months to make all the necessary arrangements you would expect from such a deal," the official said.
The disclosure could complicate matters on Capitol Hill with lawmakers who have been rebuffed by the administration in their attempts to learn more about the deal, sources said.
An Energy Department spokesperson told the Free Beacon in late April: "We cannot discuss details of the payment until after the purchase is complete."
The timeline for the deal is raising new questions from congressional sources.
"The confirmation of this late April date is likely to anger lawmakers who were denied details of the deal because the Energy Department told them several months ago that key details surrounding the deal had not yet been firmed up," said one congressional adviser familiar with attempts to compel further details about the deal.
The source pointed to a a letter presented to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kansas). The Free Beacon was the first outlet to obtain that letter.
"The Obama administration’s deal with the Mullahs in Tehran to purchase heavy water demonstrates a disturbing, potentially illegal, willingness of the administration to subsidize Iran’s nuclear program," Pompeo told the Free Beacon at the time. "This purchase allows the Iranians to offload previously unsellable product and it destigmatizes the act of doing business in Iran."
The purchase has sparked opposition on Capitol Hill among lawmakers who say that the United States should not engage in nuclear-related business with Iran. The purchase was made outside of the nuclear accord and was touted by the administration as a way to keep Iran within the limits set under the deal.
Lawmakers have been critical of the sale due to their inability to get specific details from the administration about how the deal would be completed and how U.S. taxpayer funds would be awarded to Iran.
"One of the most important achievements of the JCPOA was that we are now recognized as a seller of heavy water by America, which did not accept heavy water production by Iran," Araghchi was quoted as saying, according to an independent translation provided to the Free Beacon.
"Heavy water production has reached 25 tons per year and storing heavy water in Oman was the decision of the Atomic Energy Organization [of Iran]. … The need of Arak [heavy water reactor] was between 80 to 90 tons," Araghchi added. "We considered 130 tons for caution. We have this amount inside the country and send some to storage facilities in Oman."
Lawmakers are expected to vote Thursday on legislation that would ban the administration from carrying out similar purchases in the future.
Update, 5:30 p.m. The headline and body of this post have been revised to reflect confirmation of the purchase by an Energy Department official.
Update, 9:30 p.m. This post was updated to reflect additional comment by a U.S. official.