Iran may employ Western experts in its nuclear projects to eliminate concerns

Photo: Iran may employ Western experts in its nuclear projects to eliminate concerns / Iran

Baku, Azerbaijan, July 18

By Umid Niayesh - Trend:

Western technicians may be employed by Iran at some point in the future to put to rest Western fears that Iran may be building nuclear weapons.

A special mechanism to employ some nuclear experts from the P5+1 countries as well as regional countries to work with Iranian experts on its nuclear projects, chief secretary of the Organization on Iran's national interest protection, Saeed Yari said.

This special mechanism alongside with accepting implementation of Additional Protocol on the nuclear program and allowing widespread inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will eliminate Western concerns over Iran's nuclear program, Yari told Trend on July 18.

By this mechanism the global community will participate practically in Iran's nuclear projects and the concerns will be eliminated, he noted. However, the expert emphasized that the parliament should ratify the mechanism.

The Additional Protocol allows unannounced inspections outside of declared nuclear sites and it is seen as a vital tool at the IAEA's disposal to make sure that a country does not have any hidden nuclear operations. Additional Protocol was endorsed earlier by Iran in 2003, but wasn't officially ratified by the country's parliament and the country's officials have announced that it should pass the legal processes before implementation.

Yari also believes that Iran may even allow IAEA to inspect Parchin as a confidence building step.

"However Parchin is Iran's redline and is not connected to Iran's nuclear case, Iran may accept in the final step that the IAEA inspectors visit military facilities such as Parchin," he stressed.

U.S. officials claim Iranian scientists carried out secret research on nuclear weapons components in Iran's Parchin military complex, near Tehran. Western intelligence agencies believe that Iran tested detonation systems for a nuclear bomb at Parchin as recently as 2003.

Yari underlined that the US side knows that Iran's nuclear program is completely transparent and peaceful, calling the counter side's demands political excuses and a diplomacy game.

However, there are many experts that do not share the same viewpoints with Yari about the Iran's nuclear program.

Reza Taghizadeh, another nuclear issues expert believes that the transparency of Iran's nuclear program is under question due to their insistence on the current level of the uranium enrichment capacity.

Iran says that the uranium enrichment is aimed to produce nuclear fuel for power plants, but supplying the fuel of Iran's only nuclear power plant Bushehr, is guaranteed by Russia for 10 years, Taghizadeh told Trend on July 18, adding that Iran actually does not need uranium enrichment. Russia delivered 82 tonnes of nuclear fuel in 2008 and 30 more tonnes in May 2011 to Iran. This amount meets the Bushehr NPP's fuel needs for four years.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi said on July 7 that "Iran needs 190,000 separative work units (SWU) of uranium enrichment capacity to produce the required annual fuel for the Bushehr NPP," echoing remarks by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Salehi further brought up countering examples, saying that if Iran used its most advanced centrifuges, which are capable of producing 24 SWU per machine, Iran would merely need some 7,000 centrifuges to meet the requirements of its Bushehr power plant. Virtually all centrifuges currently operated by Iran are of the IR-1 type, and only have a SWU capacity of 0.76-1.2 per machine.

After the Khamenei's remarks on July 7 that Iran needs 190,000 SWU for uranium enrichment, the figure became the main topic in Iran's nuclear case.

On July 16, The Iranian legislators in a statement appreciated the country's negotiators in nuclear talks with the P5+1, and meantime stressed that any final deal with the six world powers should endorse Iran's use of enough centrifuge machines to produce its needed 190,000 enrichment capacity for fueling Iran's power and research reactors.

Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany) group are currently negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal in Vienna.

July 20, the current deadline for arriving at a final agreement, is only two days away but there are many questions that remain to be solved.

The two sides sealed an interim deal in Geneva on November 24, 2013 to pave the way for the full resolution of the Iran's decade-old disputed nuclear case.

In exchange for Iran agreeing to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, the US and its allies agreed to lift some of the existing sanctions against Tehran.

Commenting on the fate of the ongoing negotiations Taghizadeh said that the negotiations have practically failed and the two sides are negotiating about extending the talks. The two sides' recent statements also confirm Tagizadeh's comment.

While responding a question about Iran's current uranium enrichment capacity the expert said that it is about 12,000 SWU. He also believes that the western side even is not satisfied with the current level.

Taghizadeh went on to note that if Iran decides to enrich its 3.5 percent uranium gas reserves to the weapon-grade level, it will take less than nine months. In other words, Iran can produce weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, or 25 kilograms of WGU (ninety percent uranium 235) in a maximum of nine months with its current capacity of enrichment, the expert explained.

"Even it will be as short as 3-4 months, if Iran has 20 percent enriched uranium," he added.

"That is why the Israelis are sensitive about the type and the number of the centrifuges which Iran would be allowed to use," Tagizadeh underlined.

He also stressed that Iran should accept the issue that its nuclear fuel needs must be symmetrically with its nuclear reactors. Even if Iran and Russia finalized the agreement about building the two new reactors, the P5+1 can guarantee the fuel supply, he commented.

Building a reactor takes 10 years, meanwhile, an enrichment plant can be built in 2-3 years, Tagizadeh, said.

So Iran will have more than enough time for producing the fuel which will be needed for its future reactors.

The fact is that, Iran has no problem in supplying fuel for its nuclear reactors. Besides Russia, the IAEA is also ready to supply Iran's fuel demand from its Nuclear Fuel Bank in Kazakhstan, he added.

Iran states that the purpose of the Fordo enrichment facility is producing uranium enriched to the 20-percent purity to supply fuel for Tehran Research Reactor, he said, adding that the mentioned reactor which became operational in 1967 is life-expired and should have been deactivated 20 years ago.

The Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility, which has nearly 3,000 centrifuges installed, is dug deep into a mountain near the city of Qom, some 150 kls south of Tehran. The future of the facility is one of the dispute subjects between Iran and the West.

Commenting on the differences between Iran and the West in the ongoing negotiations Taghizadeh said that two main difference points are the number of the centrifuges and the sanctions issue. He also stressed that announcing the 190,000 SUW of centrifuges by Iran's leader will expose more pressure for Iranian negotiation team.

However, Yari believes that it was only a warning for both sides, adding that the leader's statements have scientific bases and is a manifest for Iran's nuclear negotiation team.

"It was a message for Iran's team to not pass the Islamic Republic's redlines, and an announcement to the western side indicating the level of Iran's demands, not a threat, nor a populist speech," Yari explained.

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