Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 25
By Umid Niayesh - Trend:
Both Iran and the West will benefit from the redesign of the disputed IR-40 heavy water nuclear reactor, which is under construction in Arak city (central Iran), Behrooz Bayat, a former consultant at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) clinched last July, Iran should redesign and rebuild a modernized heavy water research reactor in Arak in order inter alia, to avoid the production of weapons-grade plutonium. Last week the P5+1(the US, the U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany) signed a document on the issue.
Explaining the changes to be implemented in the reactor, Bayat told Trend Nov. 25 that its main parameters will be changed.
The reactor's thermal power will be decreased in half, from 40 megawatts to 20 megawatts and as a result it will produce less plutonium, Bayat said. He added that the reactor will also use a different type of fuel after redesigning.
"The Arak research reactor was designed to work with natural uranium (0.7 percent uranium-235), but once redesigned it will work with low enriched uranium (3-5 percent enriched)," Bayat said.
The neutron flow density (neutron flux) of the reactor which is used for producing radioisotopes will significantly increase within the redesign plan, he added.
The intensity of the neutron flux was unclear in the Arak reactor's previous plan, while after redesign it will be some 1014 neutrons/s.cm², the expert said, adding as a result its functionality will increase to a medium size research reactor.
"Thermal power level is not a priority in nuclear research reactors unlike in the reactors which are used for electricity generation. In these types of reactors the main factor is value of the neutron flux for producing radioisotope," Bayat explained.
He added that the decreased thermal power level and enriched uranium used as fuel, will decrease the amount of the produced plutonium to one-tenth of the former level.
"This outcome will calm down the West's concerns about the reactor, which with the previous design would be able to produce about nine kilograms of plutonium per year, a considerable amount of Plutonium for making a nuclear bomb," Bayat said.
On the other hand, all the spent fuel from the Arak reactor, still containing some Plutonium, will be shipped out of Iran under the JCPOA requirements, which is also an additional step to remove the Western side's concerns completely, he said.
Only a heavy water moderator will be maintained from the previous design, as it has a face saving importance for the Islamic Republic, as Iranian officials always insist that the reactor should remain a "heavy water" reactor.
"In total, the new modernized reactor is beneficial for the Iranian people. It was practically the only useful part of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, because due to the age of the Teheran nuclear research reactor Iran will lack such a reactor in near future" the expert said.
He added that based on the redesign plan, the reactor will become even better and more efficient.
"Under the signed agreement, Arak reactor will be built under the modern standards and will benefit from the expertise and experiences of the P5+1 members," Bayat said.