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Iran denies dismantling nuclear reactor core

Iran's heavy water facility at Arak [AFP]

Date of publication: 12 January, 2016

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Arak's reactor has not been filled with cement, contrary to reports, and Tehran will still be selling heavy water from the nuclear plant to Washington, said Iran's deputy atomic chief.

Iran has denied reports that it had dismantled the core of its reportedly near-finished heavy water reactor as part of a deal that will see sanctions lifted in exchange for limits on Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iran's deputy atomic chief, Ali Asghar Zarean, told reporters that Tehran would first sign an agreement with China to modify the Arak reactor, a deal that is expected next week.

"Definitely, we will not apply any physical change in this field until a final agreement is finalised," Zarean added.

On Monday, Fars said technicians had dismantled the core of the Arak reactor and filled it with concrete, a story repeated by the BBC. The Fars agency, which is close to Iranian hard-liners, cited unnamed sources.

Under its July deal with the P5+1 group - the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany - Iran has agreed to replace the core of the Arak heavy water reactor, modernising the design as it takes other steps to ensure the facility cannot be used to make nuclear weapons.

   
    click to enlarge

Hard-liners in Iran, who oppose Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the nuclear deal with world powers, argue that the so-called "disabling" of Arak is a slap in Iran's face and provides "evidence" of Rouhani having given too many concessions to the West in return for too little.

'US will buy Iran heavy water'

Zarean also said that the Islamic Republic will sell heavy water to the United States.

"Iran will sell 40 tonnes of its excess heavy water to the United States through a third country," Zarean was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"Six tonnes of the exported heavy water will be used in nuclear facilities and the rest in American research centres," he said.

Savannah River National Laboratory near Jackson, South Carolina, has recently certified the high purity of heavy water produced by Iran, he added.

It's not clear what the modification process at Arak will involve, but officials in the past have said that some parts of the reactor need to be filled with cement because of safety concerns.

Iran is still expected to produce some 20 tonnes of heavy water at Arak each year. It has said it would domestically consume about six tons for medical isotopes and is looking to export the rest.

Under the deal, Tehran has reduced the number of its centrifuges and transferred the bulk of its low-enriched uranium stockpile to Russia.

The International Atomic Energy Agency must verify that Iran has fulfilled all of its obligations before sanctions can be lifted.

Officials have said the IAEA announcement could come as early as this month.

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