Iranian nuclear chief: Arak plant ‘on schedule'

Abbasi-Davani rebuffs Western media reports of delays in Iran’s Arak 40-megawatt heavy water research reactor.

Bibi netanyahu (photo credit: JPost Staff)
Bibi netanyahu
(photo credit: JPost Staff)
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.
Iran’s nuclear 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.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
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 enrichment facilities.
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 facilities.
“Despite sanctions, this year we will substantially increase our centrifuges and we will continue with enrichment,” IRIB quoted him as saying.
Iran’s nuclear chief added that Iran’s Bushehr reactor, which is being developed with Russian assistance, would also soon be fully operational.
Abbasi-Davani said that all Iran’s nuclear activities were under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection.
Abbasi-Davani 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.”