The British Daily Telegraph published satellite footage Wednesday morning indicating that a heavy-water factory is in operation at the nuclear plant near Arak. Heavy water is an element in the production of plutonium which can be used to build nuclear bombs.
Until now, the Iranians were known to be enriching uranium as part of its attempts to achieve military nuclear capabilities.
As Iranian representatives are meeting with diplomats from the five permanent members of the United Nations and Germany in Kazakhstan to discuss limits on its enrichment program, it seems that Iran is planning a second course to its bomb.
The heavy-water plant at Arak has been closed to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a year and a half, though the inspectors are allowed into the adjacent nuclear reactor. The satellite footage published today by the Daily Telegraph show a column of steam rising from the plant which indicates that heavy-water is being produced there.
According to the newspaper, western intelligence agencies and the IAEA have been aware for a while of the activity in the plant. Additional satellite photographs show increased deployment of anti-aircraft missile batteries around the Arak installation to defend it from a possible air strike.
The nuclear reactor at Arak is scheduled to become active, according to the Iranian reports to IAEA in early 2014 and is claimed by Tehran to be for civilian purposes. The use of heavy water in a nuclear reactor would enable Iran to produce the isotope Plutonium-239 which is the main fissile component of most nuclear bombs in existence around the world.
The six powers - United States, Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France - are expected to offer Tehran some sanctions relief if it curbs work which they suspect is intended to produce material for nuclear weapons, although Iran denies this.
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