Published — Saturday 23 February 2013
Last update 22 February 2013 9:27 pm
VIENNA: Iran appears to be advancing in its construction of a research reactor Western experts say could offer the state a second way of producing material for a nuclear bomb, if it decided to embark on such a course, a UN report showed.
Iran has almost completed installation of cooling and moderator circuit piping in the heavy water plant near the town of Arak, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential report issued to member states late on Thursday.
Nuclear analysts say this type of reactor could yield plutonium for nuclear arms if the spent fuel is reprocessed, something Iran has said it has no intention of doing. Iran has said it “does not have reprocessing activities,” the IAEA said.
In its previous report on Iran, in November, the Vienna-based UN agency said installation work at Arak was continuing, without giving any indication of how far advanced it was.
Iran says it plans to begin operating the facility in the first quarter of 2014, the IAEA said.
The Arak facility is a “growing source of concern,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think-tank.
Israel has threatened to attack its atomic sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to resolve the decade-old dispute.
If it does, the nuclear sites at Natanz, Fordow and Arak in central Iran are likely to be targets. Fitzpatrick said it could be Arak that triggers a conflict because attacking it after it is launched could cause an environmental disaster.