Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
VIJAY SHAH via Reuters and Newsweek
As part of ongoing negotiations between several mainly Western countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear facilities, a group of six nations have offered to assist Tehran in redesigning a nuclear reactor, as the theocratic government rebuilds relations with the outside world, Reuters and Newsweek reports.
Iran’s national news agency IRNA released a statement today saying that the group of six world powers will give Iran support in reconfiguring the Arak heavy-water plant, 190 kilometres (120 miles) southwest of Tehran. The Arak facility will be converted so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium, the IRNA document said.
The official document was signed on separate days last week by the Iranian foreign minister plus his counterparts in the ‘P5+1’ group. The P5+1 countries and countersignatures are the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany. The European Union also signed the document, represented by its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The Arak plant was a spanner in the works for recent talks between Iran and the other world powers due to its weapons capabilities. The P5+1 group had concerns that Iranian possession of nuclear warheads would escalate tensions in the Middle East and that the Iranian government would use the weapons on Western ally Israel. The two countries have a longstanding hatred of each other and both have threatened to target each other with nuclear armaments in a hostile war of words.
Preparation at Arak will involve removal and decommissioning of the heavy-water reactor’s core to reduce Arak’s output of plutonium, meaning less material for a possible nuclear device, and a way for Iran to prove it is only using nuclear technology for peaceful means such as electricity generation. Doing so will also enable the Islamic Republic to free itself of the sanctions imposed by the US, EU and others.
The IRNA document states that Iran will hold the role of ‘project manager’. China will act as the plant’s re-designer and builder of the new reactor, while the United States will offer technical know-how and help review the redesigned facility to ensure it meets safety and negotiation-related guidelines. The Americans will be assisted in the review by France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Russia will also be involved, providing consulting services at Arak.
“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.
Iran had previously always insisted that the 40-megawatt plant had medical purposes, producing radioactive isotopes for use in cancer radiotherapy and not for manufacturing weapons-grade ‘fissile’ plutonium. The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had only agreed to the reconversion work at the Arak site if other countries at the negotiation table ceased insisting that Iran’s nuclear programme was being used under ‘past military dimensions’, in other words, that it was intended to create nuclear bombs. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is undertaking work on another plant at a military complex in Parchin at the moment, had collected samples from that facility will announce its own conclusions on possible military nuclear applications on Iran by the 15th December this year.
Visit and follow our new blog GIFVILLE