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Iran to Continue 'Construction' at Disputed Heavy-Water Reactor

A technician welds materials at Iran's unfinished Arak heavy-water reactor site in 2004. Tehran's foreign minister on Wednesday indicated his nation would continue "construction" at the unfinished facility, though a new international nuclear deal places restrictions on work there (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images). A technician welds materials at Iran's unfinished Arak heavy-water reactor site in 2004. Tehran's foreign minister on Wednesday indicated his nation would continue "construction" at the unfinished facility, though a new international nuclear deal places restrictions on work there (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

Iran on Wednesday announced plans to continue "construction" at an internationally disputed heavy-water reactor facility, just days after the nation agreed to restrict preparations at the site for six months, Reuters reported.

"No new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed" at the Arak plant, "but construction will continue there," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told his nation's legislature in Persian-language remarks aired by Iran's Press TV.

The unfinished facility figured significantly into last week's negotiation of a landmark nuclear accord designed to create a window for Iran and six other governments to negotiate a broader deal on the Persian Gulf power's nuclear activities. Western powers fear Iran could tap the heavy-water reactor to produce nuclear weapon-usable plutonium, though Tehran has long insisted that its atomic efforts are strictly peaceful.

It was uncertain what construction activities are slated to continue. Analysts have suggested, though, that Iran could exploit a possible loophole in this week's deal to assemble parts for the site at another location. The facility was slated to open in the middle of next year.

The agreement -- signed in Geneva on Sunday -- states that Iran for half a year will "not commission the [Arak] reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site."

Iran also "will not test additional fuel or produce more fuel for the reactor or install remaining components" during the six-month duration of the interim deal, its text states.

Zarif described the planned construction to a gathering of Iranian lawmakers that included vocal critics of this week's deal with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, Agence France-Presse reported.

Conservative Iranian legislator Rouhallah Hosseinian, who is among the accord's detractors, said the interim deal language on uranium enrichment "is implicit and it can only mean limiting [Iran's] enrichment right."

The six-month arrangement restricts Iran's enrichment of uranium, which can also fuel nuclear bombs if refined to a high purity.

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Iran

This article provides an overview of Iran's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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