Iran to Press on With Developing Contentious Reactor, Nuclear Chief Says

The Arak heavy water reactor could produce the plutonium required for Iran to build a bomb, but has only been operating at one-tenth capacity after the nuclear accords were signed in 2015

Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of Tehran
Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of Tehran, 2011. Credit: AP Photo / ISNA, Hamid Foroutan

Iran wants to complete the controversial Arak heavy water reactor "without delay," according to its nuclear chief.

"The Arak project must be completed and put into operation immediately with local technology and by local experts," one of Iran's several vice presidents and nuclear chief Mohammed Eslami said on Monday.

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Eslami visited the nuclear plant in central Iran and discussed the reconstruction of the reactor with local experts, according to the ISNA news agency.

The heavy water reactor has been highly controversial in recent years because Iran could use the plutonium produced there to build nuclear bombs.

Iran started the reconstruction after the Vienna nuclear agreement of 2015. Instead of 10 kilograms of plutonium per year, less than 1 kilogram was produced in Arak after the agreement, according to Iranian data.

However, the new Iranian government of President Ebrahim Raisi wants to put the Arak heavy water reactor back into operation.

Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian have stressed several times that Iran will only comply with its obligations if the nuclear agreement is implemented in accordance with the treaty and, in particular, if the new US sanctions are lifted.

Tehran would also resume nuclear negotiations in Vienna, but is demanding the release of at least parts of its frozen bank accounts abroad in advance.

Negotiations on saving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which resumed in April, were suspended after the presidential election in June and the change of government in Tehran.

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