Iran to conduct initial testing of redesigned Arak nuclear reactor

Iranian nuclear agency says ‘cold test’ will be held to check fluid and support systems startup ahead of plant’s full commissioning later in the year

By TOI STAFF19 March 2021, 1:24 pm  1

A view of the heavy-water production plant in the central Iranian town of Arak, August 26, 2006. (AP/ ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

A view of the heavy-water production plant in the central Iranian town of Arak, August 26, 2006. (AP/ ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

Iran will “cold test” its revamped Arak nuclear reactor as a prelude to its full inauguration later in the year, the country’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Friday, according to a Reuters report.

Cold testing of reactors usually includes the initial startup of fluid systems and support systems. The nuclear agency spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi said it will take place sometime early in the Iranian new year, which begins Sunday, the report said.

While Iran had agreed to shut down the reactor at the Arak facility under the 2015 deal, Tehran says it has been working on redesigning it for medical and agricultural use.

The plant was permitted to make some of the heavy water used to help cool reactors, producing plutonium as a byproduct that can potentially be used in nuclear weapons.

Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Behrouz Kamalvandi speaks in a press briefing in Tehran, Iran, July 7, 2019. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The announcement of the tests came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron, standing alongside President Reuven Rivlin, urged Iran to stop aggravating the already grave crisis over its nuclear program by multiplying violations of the 2015 deal with world powers.

Iran has repeatedly taken steps to violate the agreement and turn up the heat on the US, including by enriching uranium past the accord’s limits and barring UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and put punishing sanctions on Iran. US President Joe Biden and his administration have repeatedly said they will return to the agreement if Tehran first returns to compliance.

Iran has insisted the US remove sanctions before it returns to the deal’s terms, putting the two sides at a stalemate.

Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor’s secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have already begun voicing opposition to the Biden administration’s desire to rejoin the deal, putting Jerusalem and Washington at odds on the issue. Some leading Israeli officials in recent months have warned of military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

In addition, Iran has for months threatened retaliation against Israel over the killing of its chief military nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in an operation Tehran has blamed on the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. An attempted bombing near the Israeli embassy in India last month, as well as the recent mine attack on an Israeli cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman, have both been attributed to Iran by Israel.

Last week, Israeli and US officials held the first session of a bilateral strategic group aimed at collaborating in the effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

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