Iran official: Second circuit of Arak reactor to be completed in two weeks

Assistant to head of Iranian atomic energy program claims country produces 20 tons of heavy water a year, is self-sufficient in designing and producing centrifuges

Iran's Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, Jan. 15, 2011. (AP/Fars News Agency, Mehdi Marizad)
Iran's Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, Jan. 15, 2011. (AP/Fars News Agency, Mehdi Marizad)

An Iranian official said on Sunday that the second circuit of the country’s Arak heavy water reactor would be completed in two weeks.

Ali Asghar Zarean, an assistant to the chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, made the comments during a tour of the country’s nuclear facilities in the southeastern city of Kerman, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

He also claimed that Iran produces 20 tons of heavy water a year, and could produce 25 tons, and that it exports heavy water to different countries.

He said that the Islamic Republic was self-sufficient in its ability to design and manufacture centrifuges.

Heavy water can be used to produce plutonium, which fuels nuclear weapons.

Last week, a team of British experts arrived in Iran to begin work upgrading the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, the UK embassy in Tehran said.

Iran removed the core of the Arak facility and filled part of it with cement as part of a 2015 deal that gave the country relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

The reactor is to be modernized with the help of foreign experts under the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

A view of the heavy-water production plant in the central Iranian town of Arak, August 26, 2006. (AP/ ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

The British experts would remain in Iran for three days, the embassy told AFP.

Tensions have been escalating between Iran and the United States since May last year when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear accord and began reimposing sanctions.

The remaining partners in the deal with Iran include Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

The European parties have repeatedly said they are committed to saving the accord, but their efforts have so far borne little fruit.

Tehran has already hit back three times with countermeasures that breach the nuclear accord in response to the US withdrawal from the deal.

On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond a 300-kilogram maximum set by the deal, and a week later, it announced it had exceeded a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.

In its latest move it fired up advanced centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles on September 7.

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