West seeks new ways to remove low-enriched uranium in Iran

West seeks new ways to remove low-enriched uranium in Iran

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 28 / Trend T. Konyayeva /

The West should not restrict itself to the sanctions it has imposed on the Iranian nuclear program. It should seek ways to remove low-enriched uranium accumulated in the country and to reduce Iran's concern about security, the director of the Russian Center for Public Policy Research Vladimir Evseev said.

"The West should not restrict itself to the bans, because Iran effectively finds loopholes to overcome the sanctions," a member of Trend Expert Council Evseyev said over the phone from Moscow. "As far as one can judge, they are not so critical for the Iranian economy. It is necessary to create the conditions to remove low-enriched uranium from circulation in Iran and to reduce Iran's concern about security."

Iran continues to accelerate volumes of low-enriched uranium , despite tightening international sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Reuters reported citing a confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on May 24.

According to the document, the volumes of low-enriched uranium accumulated by Iran since 2007 reached 4.1 tons. It has reached 0.5 tons times that which was recorded in February. According to experts, this volume of low-enriched uranium (in case of its further enrichment) is enough to produce at least two atomic bombs.

The IAEA published new data on the Iranian nuclear program the day after the EU extended sanctions against Tehran. On May 23, the foreign ministers of EU countries included about 100 Iranian companies in the list of sanctions. The sanctions include a freeze over their accounts.

Evseyev said that it is impossible to stop Iran's nuclear program by imposing sanctions.

"Iran is likely to follow Japan now -- that is, it creates the opportunities for the production of nuclear weapons, but it does not produce it," he said. "It creates technical potential, which can allow this. But it is difficult to restrict the creation of this potential ."

Iranian nuclear program has caused concern since 2003, when the IAEA became aware of its concealed activity. In late 2003, Iran signed the Additional Protocol to the NPT and voluntarily announced about the suspension of uranium enrichment. However, it returned to this activity. Iran insists that as a party to the NPT it has the full right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Experts believe that Tehran may decide to create nuclear weapons if serious concerns about safety pervade. For example, concerns about the West's desire to change the ruling regime in Iran.

"If Iran has serious concerns about its safety, one can offer them anything but they will eventually produce a bomb, because only nuclear weapons will stop the West from intervening in domestic affairs," he said.

An expert stated that the IAEA's last report showed the necessity for building a plant in Iran which would produce nuclear fuel.

"If we consider the issue in terms of nuclear proliferation, the enterprise does not represent a danger because uranium hexafluoride must be converted into an oxide form to make pills and produce nuclear fuel," he said. "Apparently, Iran already possesses the technology which is not so technically complex and closed for Iran to fail to implement it."

The production technology of fuel elements, also called assemblies as fuel elements are assembled from the pills, is not critical in the field of nuclear proliferation either, he said.

"There are a number of advantages in establishing this enterprise in Iran with the consent of the West," the expert said.

Firstly, he thinks that this enterprise can be created specifically for the Bushehr nuclear power plant -- that is, that some amount of low-enriched uranium may be produced not just once with the help of this enterprise, such as the Tehran research reactor, but on a regular basis.

Secondly, the expert added that Russia has an agreement with Iran to deliver the used nuclear fuel after using at the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

"But it is not stipulated who produces the fuel," he said. Let's suppose that if we [Russia] produce fuel elements to be used at the Bushehr plant, after refinement Russia has the right to take the [fuel] to Russian territory. It means it will not remain in Iran and will not be a potential threat to production of plutonium."

He called control ensuring as the third advantage of this enterprise. "That is, we limit the production of low-enriched uranium and control its costs," the expert said.

The expert believes that the implementation of his proposal is beneficial for Iran because it solves a problem which has been repeatedly voiced by Tehran. There is a need for nuclear fuel.

"In this case, Russia could take on the issue of certifying nuclear fuel," he said.

The expert said that about 20 tons of low-enriched uranium is necessary for one annual loading into the reactor. But Iran lacks this quantity. "What is the way out? First, it is possible to load assemblies from different manufacturers in a single zone of a nuclear reactor. It was done in Ukraine. The U.S fuel was used with the Russian one in one active zone," - he said.

Moreover, one can offer Iran to turn out uranium for one load. Iran will produce fuel at the enterprise which will be created by Russia.

"It is necessary to start a process not to regularly put the low-enriched uranium into circulation but to produce the material for peaceful use," he said. " If we do not do this, Iran will accumulate more and more low-enriched uranium with a much higher degree of purity. When it is ready to produce a nuclear bomb, Iran may decide to create it. "

The uranium e nriched up to 3 or 5 percent is used as fuel for nuclear power plants. The repeated enrichment process leads to the production of uranium with a higher degree of purity. The w eapons-grade uranium must have 90-percent-purity. The e xpensive and lengthy process of obtaining the highly enriched uranium is carried out with only one purpose -- to manufacture nuclear bombs.

However, the West does not accept my proposal to establish such an enterprise because it considers it a one-sided concession that it can not make.

"Therefore, my proposal must be viewed as either a package or a concession from the Iranian side, because the West will not agree to this without any preconditions," he said.

The expert said that Tehran's statements about the need for the production of its own fuel for new reactors are unfounded, as Iran has not actually started to implement its program to build additional reactors.

"The accumulated reserves of low-enriched uranium are too small to provide its own nuclear power," he said. "Moreover, there are too little reserves of natural uranium in Iran. It will also be a deterrent. Iran is not ready either to create light-water nuclear reactors or to provide them with nuclear fuel independently."

In mid-April, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoun Abbasi said that Iran will accelerate the pace of enriching uranium over the next few years with up to 20 percent growth in order to build four to five research reactors producing medical isotopes.

According to the IAEA previous report, there were about 8,000 gas centrifuges, used to enrich uranium in Iran by late February. About 43.6 kilograms of uranium that can be enriched up to 20 percent were produced. Iran announced the production of 17 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium in June 2010.

The first batch of its own enriched uranium is planned to be loaded to the research reactor in Tehran in September 2011.

The proposed way is not to help Iran completely provide itself with fuel, as this would be completely unrealistic. It envisages the complicity in this process in case of using the accumulated low-enriched uranium, he said .

"Having this approach, perhaps, it would be possible to move Iran's issue from the dead point, because otherwise we drive the situation into a corner," he said.

The expert thinks that the growth of confrontation, for example Iran with Gulf countries, the deterioration of the situation in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may lead to Iran's decision to create nuclear weapons.

"Israel will strike Iran. Later, the U.S. will join," he said. "Eventually everything will affect such a country as Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, this scenario is real. My proposal allows overcoming the impasse in which the West sits."

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