Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) head Ali Akbar Salehi left for Beijing on Wednesday, in an official visit to sign an agreement by which China will redesign Iran's Arak heavy water reactor and purchase the construction of several new small nuclear reactors for the Islamic regime.
Salehi is to be in China for three days according to the semi-official Fars News Agency, which noted that the highlight of the trip is to be the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese officials stipulating that Beijing will help Iran upgrade and redesign Arak.
The move would seem to indicate that China will take a leading role in the heavy water reactor's redesign, even though the Iran nuclear deal left it open as to which world powers would be involved in that step.
The AEOI head is to meet with the chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) Xu Dazhe on Wednesday evening, and with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi the following evening, according to the Mehr News Agency which is also a semi-official outlet of the Iranian government.
Salehi will also visit several nuclear facilities and research centers in China during his visit according to Iranian media.
The Arak reactor was a key point in nuclear talks, given that the heavy-water nuclear facility is almost completed, and once complete it could produce several nuclear weapons every year.
In the nuclear deal sealed last month, Iran agreed to remove the reactor core from Arak and redesign it with new technology provided by world powers so as "to minimize the production of plutonium and not to produce weapon-grade plutonium in normal operation."
While Iran is to main full control over the site's management, spent fuel is to be shipped out of the country according to the deal. Iran agreed in the deal not to build a new heavy water reactor for 15 years.
Nuclear bonanza since the deal
Talk of redesigning the Arak reactor was first heard in a secret draft outline released by Associated Press back in June. That document started detailing how the West would give Iran advanced nuclear technology in return for it making some temporary limitations on its nuclear program.
Iran has been in a rush to build new nuclear sites after the deal. Late last month, just weeks after the agreement was sealed, Iran announced construction on two new nuclear facilities in a southeast region on the Indian Ocean.
AEOI deputy chief and spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi on Tuesday revealed Iran's plans to buy new nuclear reactors from China, saying Iran is interested in ACP100 small nuclear reactors which are installed underground.
He noted that two or three small nuclear plants can be built one next to the other to construct a medium size nuclear plant.
The nuclear deal, which China was a partner to, stipulates that Iran will not build any new uranium enrichment facilities for a period of 15 years. While Iran's new nuclear plants will not necessarily be used to enrich uranium – although they will, at the least, require enriched uranium in order to operate – Iran has a long history of lying about the military aspects of its nuclear program.
Ascertaining the usage of the new plants will be made all the more difficult because the deal gives Iran 24 days before any inspection.
As part of a classified side deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran will be inspecting its own Parchin site, where it has admitted to conducting nuclear detonator testing in the past.