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Iran’s Arak Reactor To Be Redesigned Within Four Years

A general view of the Arak nuclear site 190 km southwest of Tehran.

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, has said the redesign of the Arak heavy-water reactor will be completed within the next three or four years.

“Iran will lead the project to redesign the Arak reactor with China and America as partners. The main contract for the project has already been signed with China,” Mehr News quoted Kamalvandi as saying.

According to the 2015 nuclear deal with 5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany), the Arak reactor must be redesigned so that it will be incapable of producing plutonium, an element that can be used for the production of nuclear weapons.

Taking out the Arak reactor’s core, filling it with concrete, and redesigning the facility, along with reducing the number of centrifuges in Natanz and Fordow, as well as swapping Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiles with yellow cake were included in the primary conditions set for Tehran to begin its nuclear negotiations with global powers.

“The first stage of redesigning the Arak reactor comprised a basic design by Iranian engineers, and a contract was immediately signed with the Chinese side in Vienna,” Kamalvandi said.

Quoting the AEOI spokesman, Mehr News Agency reported, “All the tasks carried out over the past year will be reviewed within six to eight months, and the results will be announced before launching the comprehensive design phase, which requires a year of time.”

Kamalvandi insisted the project is not behind schedule. “The executive phase will follow the comprehensive design, and the Arak reactor will be operational in three to four years,” he said.

The heavy-water plant was constructed 25 years ago, and in the second phase its production capacity increased from 8 tons to more than 20 tons a year.

Iran has always maintained that the Arak 40 megawatt reactor produces heavy water for cancer therapy and isotopes for other medical purposes.

On the basis of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s heavy-water stockpiles should never surpass a 90-ton limit at any given time. Iran, in the past, has been forced to sell its extra heavy water to different countries, including the United States.

Meanwhile, Kamalvandi said Iran is increasing its yellow cake stockpiles and that buying more from Kazakhstan is on Tehran’s agenda.

Earlier, the head of the AEOI, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Tehran plans to buy 950 tons of yellow cake from Kazakhstan and that it had reported the plan to the joint commission secretariat of JCPOA. Now, the deal awaits the approval of the United Kingdom.

“Iran is going to turn 300 tons of yellow cake bought from Kazakhstan into UF-6 gas and then sell it back to Astana,” Salehi announced.