VIENNA - Iran appears to be testing atomic fuel intended for a planned reactor which could one day yield nuclear bomb material, a former senior United Nations nuclear official said on Thursday.
The Islamic Republic is building a heavy water research reactor near the central town of Arak, a type which Western experts say could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
Earlier this week, Iran announced it had made a breakthrough in producing fuel rods for nuclear power plants.
Olli Heinonen, former head of nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide at the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, said he believed the fuel was being developed for Arak, which Iran hopes to bring on line by the end of next year.
Spent fuel can be reprocessed to make plutonium, possible bomb material, but Western worries about Iran's nuclear activities are focused on its enrichment of uranium, which can also provide the core of nuclear weapons if refined much more.