World powers to help Iran redesign Arak plant

Six world powers will help Iran redesign its Arak heavy water reactor so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium, Reuters reported Saturday, citing a document released by the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

According to the news agency, the document was signed separately on November 13, 17 and 18 by the foreign ministers of Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany) as well as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. It became effective on the date it was signed by all states.

The Arak research reactor was an issue of contention in talks ahead of a nuclear deal reached last July between Iran and the six world powers.

Tehran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and exists only to produce energy for civilian use.

Satellite images from more than two years ago showed that the Arak plant was operational, raising fears that it is trying to produce plutonium for a nuclear bomb. Iran invited inspectors to visit the plant a year later, shortly after an interim agreement was signed with world powers.

Removing the core of the heavy water reactor to produce less plutonium is a crucial step before the relief from sanctions starts as part of the July agreement, noted Reuters.

According to the document, Iran will act as project manager, while China "will participate in the redesign and the construction of the modernized reactor" and the United States "will provide technical support and review of the modernized reactor design".

France, the United Kingdom and Germany will participate in design review and Russia will provide consultative services.

In August, it was reported that the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran visited China to sign an agreement by which China will redesign the Arak reactor and purchase the construction of several new small nuclear reactors for the Islamic Republic.

"The primary design of Arak reactor will take one year. Then the (P5+1) working group has three months to approve it," Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran's atomic energy agency, was quoted as saying on Saturday by state broadcaster IRIB.

During the process the Arak heavy water reactor will be reconfigured so it cannot yield fissile plutonium usable in a nuclear bomb, noted Reuters.


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