Iran’s new nuclear chief wants quick overhaul of the Arak reactor

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The new head of the Iranian atomic energy organization wants to accelerate the conversion of the heavy water reactor Arak into a research facility.

Iran removed the core of the Arak facility and filled part of it with cement under a 2015 deal that gave the country relief from sanctions in return for restricting its nuclear program. As part of the deal, the Islamic Republic agreed to modify the Arak reactor so that it could not produce military plutonium. Tehran said it was working to transform it for medical and agricultural uses.

“This project needs to be reconfigured and put back into operation as soon as possible,” the Iranian media quoted Mohammad Eslami on Saturday during a visit to the site this week.

No timeframe was given.

Tehran has gradually withdrawn its nuclear commitments since 2019, a year after then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral agreement and began reimposing sanctions.

Tehran has quadrupled its stock of 60 percent enriched uranium since May, openly in violation of the 2015 agreement.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami (center), speaks during a joint press conference with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi (second from right) in Tehran, Iran, on Sunday, September 12, 2021 AP)

Iran announced in 2019 that a secondary circuit for the Arak reactor had been commissioned as part of its redesign, but the primary circuit of the reactor, which contains the core, was still under construction.

The US withdrawal from the nuclear deal slowed down the conversion of the reactor.

Eslami’s remarks came just days after the head of the United Nations Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Rafael Grossi, visited Tehran and reached a temporary agreement to continue monitoring Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Talks between Iran and the world powers have been going on since June about re-entering the agreement. More than three months after the suspension of the negotiations that began in Vienna in April under the aegis of the European Union to revive the international agreement of 2015, the great powers are losing patience.

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