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Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Iran Confirms Steps to Curb Plutonium Output
Iran said it is altering its heavy-water reactor to generate 90 percent less plutonium, a bomb-usable substance, the Associated Press reports.
Tehran is "redesigning the reactor" at Arak to reduce its projected plutonium output to "2.2 pounds," Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi told the Islamic Republic News Agency on Wednesday.
His comments marked Iran's first airing of a specific plan for the unlaunched site's plutonium output, and they fed into an ongoing multilateral dialogue on the nation's weapon-relevant atomic capabilities, according to AP. Tehran insists its nuclear efforts are peaceful, but it is negotiating potential curbs on the activities in a bid to secure relief from international sanctions.
An independent analyst said the other negotiating powers still worry that Iran may eventually choose to expand the Arak site's plutonium-production capacity, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Increasing the facility's plutonium output and building a system to isolate weapon-usable material would be "a lengthy but hard-to-stop process," according to a written assessment by Ali Vaez, an expert with the International Crisis Group think tank.
Iran's uranium-enrichment program -- an ostensibly nonmilitary effort with possible weapon applications -- has remained a source of sharp division in the country's discussions with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany. Tehran is holding separate bilateral meetings this week with four of the "P-5+1" nations, before a June 16-20 gathering of all seven powers planned in Vienna, Agence-France Presse reported.
On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif highlighted a technical argument that his country would need between 18 and 24 months to generate enough high-purity uranium for a bomb with 10,000 first-generation enrichment centrifuges, al-Monitor reported. The comments appeared aimed at bolstering Iran's case for retaining a larger enrichment capacity for nuclear-power generation under a potential atomic deal.
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