A key Iranian information outlet has confirmed a regime strategy to inaugurate the main nuclear fission container at the Islamic nation’s heavy water reactor in Arak to divert attention from its uranium enrichment program, which the West fears is intended to build nuclear bombs.
The confirmation comes from the Irannuc.ir website, which is close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
The developments were highlighted by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors and analyzes media reports in the region.
“The closer the Arak reactor comes to completion, the more attention it will receive from the West; the more attention it receives, the more the issue of Fordo and (uranium) enrichment to 20 percent will be pushed aside,” the Iranuc.ir site explained.
An International Atomic Energy Agency report a few weeks ago said Iran had made progress on its Arak heavy water reactor even though the U.N. Security Council said the project should be suspended. The IAEA said Iran has announced the reactor should be activated by the end of 2014 to make radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.
However, plutonium itself is used for nuclear weaponry, and the strategy could possibly give Iran two sources for atomic triggers, uranium and plutonium, according to MEMRI.
According to the MEMRI analysis, by A. Savyon, director of MEMRI’s Iranian Media Project, and Y. Mansharof, a MEMRI research fellow, there will be a couple of international ripples from the move.
It will “force the international community to recognize Iran as a nuclear power, as Tehran continues to adhere to its claim that heavy water is not a nuclear material that requires supervision,” their analysis said.
“With this move, Tehran has decided to break through the deadlock in the nuclear talks by shifting the focus to the plutonium route and moving the uranium enrichment route to the back burner,” it continued.
And, the analysis said, “By stepping up the plutonium route by operating the heavy water reactor at Arak, Iran aims to eliminate the possibility of a military attack on its nuclear facilities – because attack a plutonium reactor that has been activated and is operating will have, inter alia, very grave environmental consequences.”
Their report said Iran on June 8 inaugurated the main nuclear fission container at Arak, and noted Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Fereydoon Abbasi called it “at important step in the advancement of the project.”
“This month, the IAEA board of governors expressed its criticism of Iran for failing to construct the Arak reactor in accordance with the IAEA-approved model; in addition, it noted that since 2006, Iran had failed to supply the agency with all planning information concerning the reactor, as required by IAEA regulations,” according to the MEMRI analysis.
“At the same time, Iran is continuing to prevent the IAEA from inspecting the heavy water reactor, claiming that heavy water is not a nuclear material that requires supervision – even though this kind of reactor can produce weapons-grade fissile material via the plutonium route,” the report said.
The MEMRI analysis said Tehran claims the Arak project will be used only to produce isotopes for medical work and will replace a research reactor in Tehran, but the old facility still is running.
“Why, then, does Iran need two facilities with two different routes – uranium enrichment in Tehran and plutonium in Arak – to manufacture the same isotopes, especially when the Arak reactor offers the easiest and most common way to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon?” the analysis questioned.
It explained that Irannuc.ir said Iran is hoping to have the discussion revolve around Arak, and its uranium work at Fordo and Natanz might be overlooked.
According to MEMRI, the Irannuc.ir website explained:
“The installation of the main container at the Arak reactor a few days before the presidential election indicates that Iran has decided to set a new atmosphere, new conditions, and a new agenda in advance of the next round of talks with the P5+1. Diplomats in Tehran are saying that while the issue of enrichment to a level of 20 percent at Fordo has been the focus of the talks so far, it is very likely that during 2013, and especially in early 2014, this issue will be pushed aside, and the issue of Arak itself will dominate the talks.”
The article continued: “The West has always portrayed Iran’s nuclear program as one with military potential. According to this view, the Arak facility, and especially the heavy water reactor, is more important than [the facilities in] Fordo and Natanz, because it could be one of the easiest and most conventional ways of producing plutonium, which is currently the classic method used worldwide to produce nuclear weapons.”
The Iranian report said some diplomats “estimate that the next round of [nuclear] talks with Iran will not take place before the fall of 2013, and by that time, the Arak reactor project will have advanced significantly.”
“Thus, it is assumed that the next time the P5+1 sits down at the negotiating table with Iran, its priorities will have shifted, and it will have to focus on the [need] to reach a deal with Iran regarding the Arak reactor project, instead of discussing Fordo and [uranium] enrichment to 20 percent.”
Iran is laboring under heavy U.N. sanctions because it has refused to drop its uranium enrichment work.