Iran is pressing ahead with the construction of a heavy water nuclear plant near the central city of Arak. The IAEA reported today that Iran has transported the reactor vessel - which would hold the fuel – to the plant for installation. (Reuters, 22 May)
The United States said Iran was in “non-compliance” with its international nuclear obligations.
“This report marks an unfortunate milestone with regard to Iran's illicit nuclear activities,’ State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. “(Iran was) advancing its enrichment program in blatant violation of its international obligations.” (Reuters, 22 May)
Arak reactor could yield plutonium for nuclear arms if the spent fuel were reprocessed. Iran has said it has no reprocessing activities.
“Once the reactor operates, it could spawn more than enough weapons-grade plutonium for a bomb per year, should Iran ever decide to do that,” said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment.
IAEA also reported yesterday that Iran was increasing its capacity to enrich uranium by installing hundreds more centrifuges at Natanz since February. They included complete or partial installation of more than 500 advanced centrifuges, which would enable Iran to speed up significantly the accumulation of enriched uranium.
Meanwhile, Iran told the IAEA during an inspection this month of the Bushehr nuclear power plant that it was shut down. No reason was given.
File photo: Arak Heavy Water Nuclear Reactor (Wikipedia)