Daily Israel Report

Iran: Dispute over Arak Plant 'Almost Solved'

Change in design will reduce plutonium production by 80% but will not discontinue it altogether.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 4/19/2014, 10:37 PM

A general view of the water facility at Arak
A general view of the water facility at Arak
AFP photo

Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Saturday that a dispute with world powers over the Arak heavy water reactor has been "almost resolved,” the Al-Alam Arabic-language television reported.

"Iran has made a proposal to the P5+1 (group of world powers) to make certain changes in Arak and they have accepted. This question is virtually resolved," Salehi said.

Salehi announced on Saturday that Tehran has presented a proposal to the major powers to redesign the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor in order to significantly lower plutonium production at the planned reactor. The design change will not affect the process of producing isotopes for medical uses, he explained, but will reduce plutonium production to one fifth of the original output.

The Arak reactor, located 240 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Tehran, could provide Iran with plutonium capable of being used to make a nuclear bomb. Iran claims the 40 megawatt reactor, whose construction is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, is for peaceful medical research activity only.

Tehran and the six world powers – Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany – are to resume technical talks next month in New York ahead of further negotiations on a lasting nuclear deal, a senior Iranian official said Saturday.

The talks will take place from May 5 to 9, deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi told the state broadcaster IRIB.

On Friday, a senior Iranian cleric called on the world powers not to insist on their “illogical stance” regarding the Arak heavy reactor. Addressing an audience at Tehran University campus on Friday, Provisional Friday Prayers Leader Hojjatoleslam Kazzem Seddiqi cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying, “we do not withdraw from the achievements of our scientists in area of the peaceful nuclear technology” and added that “hence, the Arak heavy reactor will in no way be closed down."

Iran is complying with the terms of its temporary nuclear agreement with six world powers, a monthly update from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed on Thursday. The secret report was obtained by Reuters and the Associated PressUnder the deal, Iran curbed some parts of its nuclear program in exchange for the limited easing of sanctions that have punished its economy.

The IAEA report showed that in accordance with the agreement, Iran has indeed neutralized half of its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium that could be turned quickly into the core of a nuclear weapon. Uranium at that level is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material.

The full IAEA report is due to be published this week.

Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has placed the Iranian nuclear danger at the top of his national security agenda for many years. Toward the end of his previous term as prime minister, he and then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak had prepared a plan for striking Iran's nuclear facilities, but the plan was never executed, possibly because of internal dissent within the IDF's leadership and other elites. As the years go by, it is becoming harder for Israel to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu has used diplomacy to try and pressure the US and other world powers to force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program, which Israel is convinced is meant for military ends. He has succeeded in focusing the world's attention on the Iranian nuclear program, but his efforts to convince the West to force Iran's hand through unrelenting sanctions were dealt a severe blow in November, when the US Administration of Barack Obama and other world powers struck a temporary deal with Iran that Israel sees as disastrous.