Iran Nuclear NewsIran said seeking help with nuclear reactor

Iran said seeking help with nuclear reactor

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Reuters: Iran plans to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency later this month for technical assistance on a nuclear reactor project that could produce two bombs a year, two experts said on Thursday. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran plans to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency later this month for technical assistance on a nuclear reactor project that could produce two bombs a year, two experts said on Thursday.

Robert Einhorn, a former top U.S. nonproliferation official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, both based in Washington, said the request should be rejected because it would advance Tehran’s nuclear weapons capability.

“When the Arak reactor is completed, which the Iranians say could happen as early as 2009, it will be capable of producing enough plutonium for about two bombs a year,” they said in an analysis.

Iran’s request to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting beginning November 23 would seek technical assistance to help ensure safety at a heavy-water production facility at Arak, Iran.

It has come up even as the U.N. Security Council is haggling over a resolution that would impose sanctions on Tehran for ignoring its demand to halt nuclear enrichment by August 31.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful energy program. Tehran says it needs nuclear power to produce electricity to meet the country’s burgeoning energy needs.

Requests for help with safety issues — like the one coming before the IAEA — are usually hard to turn down, but the two experts said Iran’s history of secretly pursuing weapons-related nuclear capabilities make this case different.

“The issue before the (IAEA) board is not safety; it is whether Iran should proceed with a project that the board itself has regarded with suspicion and called on Iran to suspend,” they said in a written analysis.

Tehran has said the Arak reactor would be used to produce isotopes for peaceful purposes, but the project under construction is a large, heavy water-moderated reactor when a light-water research reactor is satisfactory for that task, they said.

Einhorn and Kimball noted that Britain, France and Germany offered to replace Iran’s 40-megawatt heavy-water reactor with a light-water research reactor but Iran wasn’t interested.

When reprocessed, fuel rods irradiated in heavy-water reactors yield high-quality, weapons-grade plutonium. Light-water reactors are generally considered to be less useful in weapons proliferation, experts say.

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