Iran’s deputy nuclear chief denies that Arak reactor was sealed
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Iran’s deputy nuclear chief denies that Arak reactor was sealed

Ali Asghar Zarean says deal in the works for China to modify site, but technicians have not begun dismantling core

Iran's heavy-water nuclear facility is backdropped by mountains near the central city of Arak, Iran, on January 15, 2011. (AP/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File)
Iran's heavy-water nuclear facility is backdropped by mountains near the central city of Arak, Iran, on January 15, 2011. (AP/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s deputy nuclear chief is denying a report that technicians have dismantled the core of the country’s nearly finished heavy water reactor and filled it with concrete as part of Tehran’s obligations under the nuclear deal with the West.

Ali Asghar Zarean, in remarks to state TV Tuesday, dismissed the report by the Fars news agency from the previous day. He says Iran will sign an agreement with China to modify the Arak reactor, a deal that is expected next week.

Under the nuclear agreement, Iran must redesign the Arak reactor so it can’t produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Zarean says once modifications are done and Arak goes online, Iran hopes to export excess heavy water produced there to the US through a third country, for use in research.

On Monday, the official Fars news agency quoted Iran Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi saying that work to dismantle the Arak reactor would be complete in about a week.

“We have almost completed all undertakings based on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and no job has remained,” Kamalvandi reportedly said. He added that remaining work “can be carried out in less than 7 days.”

Another source told Fars that the central component of the reactor was removed.

“The heart of Arak Heavy Water Reactor was taken out today,” the source said. “The operation was accomplished today and the core has been filled with cement.”

US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said he could not confirm the report that the reactor’s core had been sealed off.

Tehran is also required to curb the number of centrifuges it runs and send abroad its existing stockpiles of enriched uranium. In exchange, world powers were to lift punishing sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic’s economy for a decade.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday she expected sanctions against Iran to be lifted soon.

Speaking to reporters in Prague Monday, Mogherini said there was no date set yet but that “the implementation of the agreement is proceeding well.”

Mogherini said it was necessary that all agreed-upon steps be “properly done,” including the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency. But after consulting recently the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States, she believed “things are going well” and the sanctions might be lifted “rather soon.”

Iran has always denied seeking nuclear arms, though an International Atomic Energy Agency report released last year found that Tehran did do work toward nuclear weapons until 2003 and continued some activities until 2009. Though Jerusalem said the report was proof of Iran’s ill intentions, Western officials said it gave them the go-ahead to forge ahead with the nuclear deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is set to issue a final report on Iranian compliance with the deal Iran signed with the so-called P5+1 powers — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. In its review, the IAEA will include details of the Arak reactor shutdown.

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