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Nuclear Chief Says Iran Hid Information About Heavy Water Reactor


The Arak heavy-water project, 190 km southwest of Tehran, 26Aug2006. File photo

Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has disclosed that in spite of pouring concrete in pipes within the core of the heavy water reactor in Arak and making it obsolete as a precondition for the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran procured additional pipes for replacement in case the West reneged on the deal.

Salehi said in a televised interview that was broadcast live on Iran's state TV on January 22, that only he and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei knew that there were additional pipes but they did not tell anyone else about it.

Critics on social media characterized Salehi's statement as "scoring a goal against your own."

In the interview, Salehi was responding to claims by Iran's hardliners that the authorities have poured concrete into the heart of the reactor. He tried to explain that there was no such thing and the nuclear agreement with world powers demanded Iran to just block pipes inside a calandria to make it unusable.

He then explained that Iran did not tell foreigners it had replacements for these pipes.

Salehi explained that the reason for keeping the information secret was that while Iran was negotiating with the West to reach a nuclear agreement, Iranians knew that Westerners would renege at one point as Khamenei had warned the Iranian delegation about it. "Not only we did not destroy the bridges behind us, we even made new bridges so that we could quickly revert to the previous position if necessary," Salehi said.

Before the nuclear agreement was made, experts said that the reactor in Arak could be capable of producing weapons grade plutonium.

The Iranian state TV's English-language rolling news channel, Press TV, quoted Salehi on 13 January as saying that "Iran has broken new ground in the field of nuclear technology and is now taking preliminary steps toward production of 20-percent modern nuclear fuel."

According to Press TV, Speaking in an exclusive interview with the IRIB News Agency, Salehi said the new nuclear fuel produced by domestic specialists will be able to keep all kinds of reactors similar to the Tehran Research Reactor running.

Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, 2nd left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, 2nd right, walk together during negotiations at an hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sunday March 29, 2015.
Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, 2nd left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, 2nd right, walk together during negotiations at an hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sunday March 29, 2015.

“Preliminary steps have been taken to design modern 20-percent fuel and we are on the threshold of producing it," Salehi said, adding that " The new product is different from the previous 20-percent fuel and we can supply fuel to any reactor similar to the Tehran Research Reactor.”

Also quoting Salehi's remarks, Israeli security, regional diplomacy and international law think tank Jerusalem Center, tweeted: "Iran continues with its nuclear activities unabated. Iranian leaders confess they continued with nuclear development," citing an article by retired Lt. Colonel Michael Segall.

Segall said in the article that "Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has stated that Iran will transfer 30 tons of 'yellow cake' (a raw material used to produce nuclear fuel) from the production site in Ardakan to Isfahan. Salehi did not mention the name of the installation, but it seems that he was referring to the UCF (uranium conversion facility) in Natanz."

“Iran has lost nothing as a result of signing the agreement,” he quoted Salehi as saying, adding, “and history will prove this. We have preserved our capabilities in the field of enrichment. We are providing products for other industries and are continuing to manufacture new centrifuges. We are doing everything we need to do, but this time in the right way.”

Correction Note: In the earlier version of this article it was said that Iran had cheated by not filling the heart of the reactor with concrete. But further investigations showed that what Iran had agreed to do in negotiations was to block pipes within the reactor.

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