Iran presses on with plans for Arak nuclear reactor

Date: 11-18-06

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran has said it will only shut down its four-decade-old light-water research reactor in Tehran after a heavy-water reactor in the town of Arak is up and running, a news agency has reported.

"Tehran's reactor will be shut down when the Arak 40-megawatt reactor is operational," Atomic Energy Organization head Gholam Reza Aghazadeh was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency on Saturday.

According to Iranian officials, the Arak plant being constructed about 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Tehran will be fully operational in 2009. It is of a type that could be adapted to produce plutonium for atomic warheads.

Aghazadeh said the life span of the five megawatt Tehran reactor, which came on line in 1967, was nearing the end.

Iran has sought technical help from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to build the new research reactor despite world calls to freeze its nuclear program but Aghazadeh said: "Whether the IAEA helps us or not, Arak's research reactor will become operational."

The request will be considered by the UN agency's technical assistance committee before a meeting of the IAEA governing board in Vienna on November 23-24, a diplomatic source has said.

Aghazadeh said there were several nations on the IAEA board which are opposed to such help but he warned: "If this cooperation is not approved in the IAEA, the IAEA will lose more."

The IAEA and the UN Security Council have called in vain on Iran to abandon plans to build the Arak reactor but Tehran insists the plant is for peaceful purposes and does not breach the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


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