Concerns over IR-40 may be eliminated by transferring used fuel abroad

Concerns over IR-40 may be eliminated by transferring used fuel abroad

Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug. 25

By Umid Niayesh - Trend:

Concerns over Arak heavy water reactor (IR-40) may be eliminated if Iran and the West agree to transfer the used fuel abroad, an Iranian nuclear expert says. If Iran agrees to transfer waste fuel which includes plutonium, it will eliminate concerns even without making design changes in the IR-40, Behrooz Bayat, a former consultant at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Trend on Aug. 25.

The IR-40, if operating optimally, would produce about nine kilograms of plutonium annually or enough for about two nuclear weapons each year.

Iran has agreed to suspend the installation activity at the reactor based on the Geneva nuclear deal.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran earlier said that the country can make some design changes to the Arak heavy water reactor in order to produce less plutonium in the reactor and in this way allay the worries and mitigate the concerns.

While commenting on the IAEA's sensitivity over Iran's tails (waste product from enrichment), Bayat said that according to the Geneva nuclear deal Iran is committed to not increase its store of uranium processed to the 5 percent level needed for nuclear power stations.

"The issue of striping the tails to natural uranium (0.7 percent) is in line with this target, to keep the country's enriched uranium store in the agreed level," he explained.

Currently Iran's centrifuges are working and in parallel with that, their products are being converted to non-reversible uranium oxide to keep the level agreed, he added.

The IAEA's recent report published last week said that Iran has informed the agency that it is depleting approximately 4118 kg of UF6 enriched up to 2 percent U-235 to natural uranium.
On July 25, Salehi announced that Iran has 1.5 tonnes of under 2 percent enriched uranium(tails) which it will convert to oxide powder according to the latest agreement with the P5+1 countries.

Responding to a question about the West's permit for diluting the tails inside the country, although Bushehr Nuclear power plant's used fuel includes plutonium, which the West is sensitive about, and Iran is committed to return it to Russia, the above mentioned tails are plutonium free, so there is no concern about it remaining inside the country.

Commenting on the IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano's recent statement about Iran's exploding-bridge wire detonator (EBW) program, Bayat said it seems the IAEA was convinced by Iran's provided explanations, which is a big step forward.

However, the IAEA has not yet confirmed that Iran did not used the EBWs for military purposes in the past or has no plan for it in the future, the expert added.

Last week Amano said that "Iran has provided information to the IAEA on its work post-2007 related to the application of EBWs in the oil and gas industry which is not inconsistent with specialized industry practices."

The EBW is a technology of detonating multiple explosive charges simultaneously or with highly accurate time differences, the expert said, adding the EBW may be used for both civil and military proposes. It may be used in conventional weapons as well as nuclear weapons, Bayat explained.

Iran and the P5+1(five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) agreed to extend their nuclear negotiations for another four months until Nov. 24 after failing to meet the July 20 deadline to reach a deal on curbing the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for ending sanctions. Under the extension agreement the U.S. will give Tehran access over the next four months to an additional $2.8 billion in oil export revenues frozen abroad by the U.S.

In return, Iran besides diluting its 2 percent enriched uranium stock will convert a quarter of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium oxide, 25 kilograms, into fuel plates, which would make it almost impossible to convert it back into gas that could be further enriched to weapons grade.

The U.S. and its Western allies suspect Iran of developing a nuclear weapon - something that Iran denies. The Islamic Republic has on numerous occasions stated that it does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, using nuclear energy for medical research instead.

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