Iran nuclear project forges ahead


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Iran nuclear project forges ahead

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has inaugurated a new phase of a heavy 
water reactor project despite Western fears about its nuclear programme.

He said Iran posed no threat to other states, not even its "enemy" Israel.

Heavy water made at Arak will be used to cool a reactor being built that will 
create a plutonium by-product that could be used to make atomic warheads.

Observers say Iran's move aims to send a signal of defiance days ahead of a UN 
deadline to halt uranium enrichment.

The US says Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, while Iran says it is 
building a reactor to supply the country with nuclear power.

After inaugurating the heavy water plant, he again said Iran would never abandon
its nuclear programme, but that nuclear weapons were not its goal.

"Basically, there is no talk of nuclear weapons," he said. "There is no 
discussion of nuclear weapons. We are not a threat to anybody, even the Zionist 
regime which is a definite enemy of the people of the region."

The ceremony comes amid mounting international pressure for Iran to suspend its 
nuclear programme.

Earlier this week, Iran had offered "serious talks" in response to a package of 
incentives offered if, by 31 August, it halted uranium enrichment - another 
possible route to nuclear weapons.

However, the US said suspension of research was required first, echoing French 
comments. China and Russia said earlier that talks were the only way forward.

Iran could face sanctions if it does not suspend its nuclear programme.

'Bone of contention'

BBC regional analyst Pam O'Toole says the heavy water reactor project at Arak 
has long been a bone of contention between Iran and some Western governments.

Arak was one of two Iranian nuclear facilities whose existence was revealed by 
an exiled Iranian opposition group four years ago. At that stage Iran had failed
to declare its existence to the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

The IAEA later called on Iran to reconsider construction of its heavy water 
reactor project.


Located at Khondab, some 190km (120 miles) southwest of Tehran

New plant now produces up to 16t of heavy water per year - Iran wants to produce
up to 80t a year

Western diplomats say producing heavy water itself does not violate 
non-proliferation treaties

Water to be used to cool a new research reactor currently under construction

Reactor will produce plutonium by-product that could be used to make atomic 

Reactor expected to be completed by 2009
Source: News agencies and Iranian government

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