Iran Official Rules Out Change to Heavy-Water Reactor

Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor complex, shown in 2011. An Iranian government spokesman in a Wednesday article said it is "too late" to potentially convert the unfinished facility to a light-water site, as suggested by some international observers.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Feb. 12, 2014, 9:42 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
1 hours ago
Chelsea to Stay on Board of Clinton Foundation
1 hours ago

Is the Clinton family backtracking on some of its promises to insulate the White House from the Clinton Foundation? Opposition researchers will certainly try to portray it that way. A foundation spokesman said yesterday that Chelsea Clinton will stay on its board, and that the "foundation’s largest project, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, might continue to accept foreign government and corporate funding."

Navy Calls Iranian Ships’ Actions Dangerous, Unprofessional
2 hours ago

"Four Iranian ships made reckless maneuvers close to a U.S. warship this week, the Pentagon said Thursday, in an incident that officials said could have led to dangerous escalation." The four Iranian vessels engaged in a "high-speed intercept" of a U.S. destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz. A Navy spokesman said the Iranina actions "created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation including additional defensive measures" by the destroyer.

Under Pressure, EpiPen Maker Drops Prices
2 hours ago

Amid public outcry and the threat of investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mylan has agreed to effectively drop the price of EpiPens. "The company, which did not lower the drug's list price, said it would reduce the patient cost of EpiPen through the use of a savings card, which will cover up to $300 of EpiPen 2-Pak."

Nigel Farage: Trump Can Beat Polls
4 hours ago

Nigel Farage, who led the Brexit effort in the United Kingdom, appeared at a Trump rally in Mississippi yesterday. Farage told the 15,000-strong crowd: "Remember, anything is possible if enough decent people are prepared to stand up against the establishment."