An Iranian official on Wednesday set aside the idea of potentially altering a nuclear reactor that other nations fear could produce atomic-bomb fuel.
Iran cannot convert its Arak heavy-water reactor to a light-water facility, Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for Iran’s delegation to the United Nations, wrote in a Wednesday commentary published by the London Guardian.
Such a change would reduce the unfinished site’s capacity to produce weapon-usable plutonium once activated, addressing a major concern shared by world powers as they seek a deal with Iran aimed at preventing its atomic assets from supporting any nuclear-arms production. But the diplomatic official said this kind of modification would prove infeasible.
“It is now too late to change [the Arak reactor] into a light-water prototype, as some have suggested in the West,” Babaei wrote. “This ‘generous’ offer should have been made much earlier.”
His assertion came a week after Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, reportedly expressed openness to modifying the Arak site “to produce less plutonium.”
On Tuesday, a former U.S. national security staffer said shutting down or significantly altering the Arak reactor would be one of the Obama administration’s “key considerations” in seeking a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. The Persian Gulf power, which insists the site is strictly for medical use, is set on Feb. 18 to begin talks on the potential deal with China, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“If Iran genuinely intends Arak to be a facility that produces medical isotopes only, it should be able to agree to such modifications without significant fuss,” Jofi Joseph, a former White House nonproliferation official, wrote in a Tuesday analysis for Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
In Senate testimony last week, the Obama administration’s senior Iran negotiator dismissed Tehran’s rationale for building the heavy-water facility.
“We do not believe there is any reason for a heavy-water reactor at all in a civil nuclear program of the type that Iran is interested in,” Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. She did not explicitly say in testimony whether the United States would demand the facility’s closure or conversion.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
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In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
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