Thursday, April 9, 2009

Iran Producing Fuel for Arak’s Heavy Water Reactor

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today inaugurated a new nuclear facility producing reactor fuel (pellets of uranium oxide ore or UO2) for the heavy-water and plutonium production reactor under construction in Arak. The new unit is located at Isfahan’s Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF). The UCF will continue producing UF6, the feed gas for uranium enriching centrifuges at Natanz.

The inauguration of the new nuclear facility was part of ceremonies marking the National Day of Nuclear Technology. Ahmadinejad, speaking at the ceremonies, also announced that Iran has tested two kinds of new “high capacity” centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The new machines, dubbed P-2, are more advanced centrifuges than the P-1s currently in operation.

Qolam Reza Aghazadeh, director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) said at the same function that there are already around 7,000 centrifuges in operation at Natanz (up from 6,000 announced in February).

Arak heavy water reactor when completed will be able to produce sufficient amount of plutonium needed for the production of plutonium-based nuclear weapons if the country decides to take that path. The enriched uranium produced in Natanz can also be processed further to produce uranium-based nuclear weapons. Senior Iranian leaders, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, have denied any intention to build a nuclear weapon.

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