Iran to build 4 reactors within a decade, nuclear chief says
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Iran to build 4 reactors within a decade, nuclear chief says

Ali Akbar Salehi reassures Iranian parliament on the merits of nuclear deal signed earlier this month

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, speaks with journalists upon his arrival to Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, July 15, 2015. (AP/ Ebrahim Noroozi)
Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, speaks with journalists upon his arrival to Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, July 15, 2015. (AP/ Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran intends to construct at least four new nuclear plants in the country within a decade, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Tuesday.

Ali Akbar Salehi briefed the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee on the details of the nuclear deal reached with the P5+1 on July 14, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

According to committee spokesman Nozar Shafi’i, Salehi said that Iran needed to find new sources of natural uranium and has already surveyed 60 percent of the country to that end, Iran’s Arabic al-Alam news service reported on Wednesday.

Salehi also praised the agreement signed with the superpowers for enabling Iran to develop its “peaceful” technological capabilities in ways that were previously impossible.

“What Iran gained by the negotiations from the technical aspect is much more than what the negotiating team was allowed to show flexibility on,” Salehi was quoted as saying.

Under the agreement, in return for intentional sanction relief, Iran must reduce the number of its uranium-enrichment centrifuges from some 20,000 to just over 5,000 and reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98% for the coming 15 years.

But Salehi said that the agreement allows Iran to join an international “nuclear fuel bank” through which it can sell locally enriched uranium and buy natural uranium in its stead, a process Iran was previously prohibited from undertaking.

An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector disconnects the connections between the twin cascades for 20% uranium production at Natanz nuclear power plant south of Tehran on January, 20, 2014 (Photo credit: Kazem Ghane/IRNA/AFP)
An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector disconnects the connections between the twin cascades for 20% uranium production at Natanz nuclear power plant south of Tehran on January, 20, 2014 (Kazem Ghane/IRNA/AFP)

Emily Landau, an expert on the Iranian nuclear program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said the enriched uranium Salehi is referring to is likely the material Iran must dispose of under the agreement, or the excess uranium Iran is not allowed to keep.

“It’s not quite clear in the agreement how Iran is meant to dispose of its uranium,” she said.

Iran has also agreed to convert its heavy water nuclear facility in Arak for a period of 15 years. Salehi told parliament that the agreement would allow Iran to renew the plant, which has been operating with “40-year-old Russian technology.”

According to Landau, Salehi is trying to domestically market the downgrading of Arak under the agreement as an Iranian negotiating achievement.

Dr. Emily Landau (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
Dr. Emily Landau (YouTube screenshot)

Salehi emphasized the fact that international inspection of Iran’s military facilities, aimed at ruling out possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, will be carried out secretly.

Landau said that the issue of the nuclear program’s possible military dimensions has not been adequately addressed by the agreement. Part of the IAEA inspection work plan has been left confidential, raising concerns that Iran would retain control of the manner in which inspections will be carried out.

“The P5+1 are not being as firm as they should be on this issue,” she said. “It looks to me like the issue will be kicked down the road further in December, when it must be clarified” by world powers.

Inspection of the Parchin military facility, where the nuclear militarization is believed to be handled, has been left secret in the agreement, she noted. Rumor has it that the deal allows Iran to itself collect soil samples of the facility and hand them over to inspectors.

“That would be like trusting the cat to keep the cream,” she said.

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