Iranian research reactor could yield nuclear bomb material, says IAEA
Iran appears to be advancing in its construction of a research reactor western experts say could offer the Islamic state a second way of producing material for a nuclear bomb, if it decided to embark on such a course, a UN report showed.
Iran has almost completed installation of cooling and moderator circuit piping in the heavy water plant near the town of Arak, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report on Thursday.
Nuclear analysts say this type of reactor could yield plutonium for nuclear arms if the spent fuel is reprocessed, something Iran has said it has no intention of doing.
In its previous report on Iran, in November, the Vienna-based UN agency said installation work at Arak was continuing, without giving any indication of how advanced it was.
Iran rejects western allegations it seeks to develop a capability to assemble nuclear weapons, saying its atomic programme is entirely peaceful and that the Arak reactor will produce isotopes for medical and agricultural use.
Iran says it plans to begin operating the facility in the first quarter of 2014, the IAEA said. Tehran last year postponed the start-up from the third quarter of 2013, a target that western experts said always had seemed unrealistic.
Western worries about Iran are focused largely on uranium-enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, as such material refined to a high level can provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb. But experts say Arak may also be a proliferation issue.
Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state, sees Iran’s programme as a danger and has threatened to attack its atomic sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to resolve the dispute.