Nuclear talks: Iran may compromise on plutonium at Arak

Iran says ready to redesign Arak to lower plutonium output; Russia sees growing chance of compromise; West fears plant could yield bomb material.

By REUTERS
April 10, 2014 15:06
2 minute read.
iran talks

Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and EE foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at nuclear talks in Vienna March 19, 2014. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Iran has made a proposal that would significantly lower plutonium production at a planned reactor, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying, signalling flexibility on a key issue in talks to end the nuclear dispute with world powers.

The comment by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's atomic energy organization, was the latest sign that a compromise may be possible over the Arak research reactor, which the West fears could yield weapons-usable material. Iran denies any such aim.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


The fate of the heavy-water plant, which has not yet been completed, is one of the central issues in negotiations between Iran and six major powers aimed at reaching a long-term deal on Tehran's nuclear program by an agreed July 20 deadline.

Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China on Wednesday ended their last round of negotiation in Vienna and said they would start drafting an agreement at their next meeting there on May 13. But officials said significant gaps needed to be bridged.

The website of Iran's English-language state television Press TV, citing Salehi late on Wednesday, said Iran had offered a "scientific and logical proposal to clear up any ambiguities" over the Arak reactor.

"In our plan, we explained that we would redesign the heart of the Arak reactor, so that its production of plutonium will decrease drastically," Salehi was quoted as saying.

RUSSIA SEES ARAK COMPROMISE



The West is worried that Arak, once operational, could provide a supply of plutonium - one of two materials, along with highly enriched uranium, that can trigger a nuclear blast.

The Islamic Republic has said that the 40-megawatt reactor is intended to produce isotopes for cancer and other medical treatments. It agreed to halt installation work at Arak under a six-month interim accord struck on Nov. 24 which was designed to buy time for negotiations on a comprehensive deal.

Russia's chief negotiator suggested after the April 8-9 talks that progress had been achieved on Arak. "The possibility of a compromise on this issue has grown," Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

Heavy-water reactors like Arak, fueled by natural uranium, are seen as especially suitable for yielding plutonium. To do so, however, a spent fuel preprocessing plant would also be needed to extract it. Iran is not known to have any such plant.

If operating optimally, Arak - located about 250 km (150 miles) southwest of Tehran - could produce about nine kg of plutonium annually, the US Institute for Science and International Security says.

Any deal must lower that amount, Western experts say.

Last week, Princeton University experts said that annual plutonium production could be cut to less than a kilogram - well below the roughly 8 kg needed for an atomic bomb - if Iran altered the way Arak is fueled and lowered its power capacity.

Related Content

Bushehr nuclear Iranian
August 5, 2014
Iran and the bomb: The future of negotiations

By YONAH JEREMY BOB