The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization rebuffed Western media reports on
Wednesday that the country’s Arak 40-megawatt heavy water research reactor
(IR-40) had been delayed, saying the project is ‘on schedule,’ according to the
Iranian state media.
Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said the Arak reactor
project has “no technical, scientific or budgetary problems,” the Islamic
Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s Persian service said.
“We are proceeding
with caution only because of security considerations, because the enemy is
intent of damaging the reactor,” Abbasi-Davani added.
chief added that the Arak reactor’s virtual [non-nuclear] fuel production line
would be launched “in the near future” and said that Iran had already purchased
all necessary equipment for the reactor.
Abbasi-Davani’s comments come in
response to a report by the UN International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA)
released earlier this month, that said Iran had postponed the planned startup of
the Arak reactor until 2014.
Iran says the Arak facility will be used for
medical and industrial isotopes, but some Western nuclear experts have warned
Arak could potentially give Iran a second route to yield plutonium for nuclear
arms, if its scientists become able to obtain the equipment and technical
know-how to reprocess spent fuel from the plant.
Iran first tried to
purchase a heavy water reactor in the 1990s, but attempts failed. By 2003, Iran
had begun constructing the Arak plant on its own.
Pressurized heavy water
reactors are fueled by natural uranium, and can be run without uranium
Iran said that it had constructed the Arak
facility because it had not known whether its uranium enrichment program would
be a success.
In his comments on Wednesday, Abbasi-Davani also said that
Iran would continue to push forward with enriching uranium at its other
“Despite sanctions, this year we will substantially increase
our centrifuges and we will continue with enrichment,” IRIB quoted him as
Iran’s nuclear chief added that Iran’s Bushehr reactor, which is
being developed with Russian assistance, would also soon be fully
Abbasi-Davani said that all Iran’s nuclear activities were
under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection.
also answered reporters’ questions on whether Israel and the US would attack
Iran’s nuclear facilities and on Israel’s recent conflict with Gaza, which Iran
continues to make efforts to emphasize.
“The attack by the Zionist regime
[a term Iranian officials use instead of Israel] on Gaza is not a new issue,” he
said, adding that Israel and the West are trying to cover up its “defeat in
Gaza” by concentrating on current events in Egypt, and urging “independent
reporters” to continue to write about Gaza.
“Iran’s armed forces are well
capable of defending our borders.
Iran will respond with the power and
strength that is needed,” Abbasi-Davani added.
Abbasi-Davani made his
comments in a ceremony at Tehran’s Beheshti University marking the second
anniversary of the death of Dr. Majid Shahriari, the leading nuclear scientist
at the head of Iran’s nuclear program who was killed by bombs thrown by
unidentified assailants on motorcycles in November 2010. The anniversary of the
killing of Shahriari is widely reported in Iran’s media, which calls the nuclear
scientist a “martyr.”