TEHRAN: Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has said Tehran will never abandon the Arak heavy-water reactor, considering it a “red line” in talks with world powers, local media reported Sunday.
“Your actions and words show you don’t want us to have the Arak heavy water reactor which means you want to deprive us of our rights,” Salehi was quoted as saying by the website of state broadcaster IRIB.
“But you should know that it is a red line which we will never cross, likewise enrichment” of uranium.
Arak is of concern because, in theory, it could provide the Islamic Republic with plutonium – an alternative to highly enriched uranium used for a nuclear bomb.
Under a landmark deal reached in Geneva with world powers, Iran has agreed that for six months it will not commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the site in exchange for minor relief from U.N. and Western sanctions that have hit its economy hard.
Iran also committed for six months “not to make further advances” at its Fordo and Natanz uranium enrichment sites and at Arak.
Abbas Araqchi, a deputy foreign minister and member of the nuclear negotiating team, insisted Arak “should remain as a heavy-water power plant,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
Tehran has invited the U.N. atomic watchdog to visit the Arak site on Dec. 8 for the first time since August 2011.
Salehi also said Sunday that Iran and Russia are in talks to build another nuclear plant at Bushehr, with construction set to begin in 2014. “With the progress made in the Geneva talks, next year we will see the start of construction on another nuclear power plant in Bushehr,” Salehi said.
He did not elaborate on the new plant’s power capacity, but Iran has planned to build 1,000-MW plants.
“We are negotiating with the Russians to produce 4,000 megawatts of electricity, and they have expressed their readiness to build,” Salehi said.
He said he asked moderate President Hassan Rouhani to include a line of credit in next year’s budget for expanding nuclear power plants.