Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh, Research and Technology Deputy at the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Reveals Details About Iran's Nuclear Project
Interviewer: "I wanted to know what is the link between the Arak heavy-water
reactor and what we now have at Natanz. Or perhaps these are two separate
Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "Obviously, these are two completely separate
processes. What happens in the enrichment process is intended primarily for
light-water power plants, and for light-water research reactors. What we
have in Arak is heavy water, which is used for heavy-water reactors and CANDU reactors. Since our future plans do not include the production of plutonium. In fact, we have no plans to separate uranium and plutonium for the purpose of fission. We are interested only in the radio-isotopes. We don't care which project will be the first to yield results - whether it is a heavy-water or light-water reactor. Canada has many heavy-water reactors. India has many heavy-water reactors - heavy-water research reactors. One country uses them to produce radio-isotopes, while the other uses them to produce weapons. It's up to the country."
What is uranium enrichment you ask, it is the production of yellow cake, or processed uranium used in CANDU reactors. As I said before the issue is NOT weapon production in Iran but the creation of yellow cake for nuclear reactors for energy purposes. However even with reprocessed plutonium in a CANDU reactor this is turned into fuel and destroys its weapons grade nature.
What is interesting is that CANDU has not sold a reactor to Iran, however they appear to be modeling their reactor on the CANDU's sold to China and India. The assertion is that China provided Iran and Pakistan with CANDU reactor technology. The reason is that it is the best nuclear reactor in the world.
Now can we all have some realistic cool headed understanding of what is going on here. Iran is moving into nuclear energy production as an alternative to oil and gas reliance, no different than Canada which also has oil and gas reserves and has nuclear power plants. And they are CANDU the safest and most efficient nuclear reactors in the world.
Compared to light water reactors, a heavy water design is "neutron rich". This makes the CANDU design suitable for "burning" a number of alternative nuclear fuels.
To date, the fuel to gain the most attention is mixed oxide, or MOX. MOX is a mixture of natural uranium and plutonium, such as that extracted from former nuclear weapons. Currently there is a worldwide surplus of plutonium due to the various US and Soviet agreements to dismantle many of their warheads, and the security of these supplies is a cause for concern. By burning this plutonium in a CANDU, it is removed from use, turning it into highly radioactive waste. Plutonium can also be extracted from spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. While this consists usually of a mixture of isotopes that is not usable for weapons, it can be used in a MOX formulation reducing the net amount of nuclear waste that has to be disposed of.
Photo courtesy of Cogema, Inc.
"Yellowcake" is another name for uranium oxide, named for its color and texture. After uranium is mined and separated from ore, it is made into "yellowcake" and shipped to a conversion plant for more processing. Uranium must first be converted into a gaseous form and then go through a long process of "enrichment" before it can be used by a nuclear power plant.
There is no proof that Iran is planning to build a bomb. Rather let's take them at their word that they are building Heavy Water plants modeled on the CANDU for domestic energy needs. Which fits with advanced industrialization.
However the politics of all this begins with Canada too, when ex-pat right whing nut David Frum the former Bush speech writer came up with the Axis of Evil.
Since his 2002 State of the Union speech, when he singled out Iran as part of an "axis of evil," Bush has tried without success to roll back Tehran's nuclear energy program. He has asserted, without offering proof, that it is a cover for weapons development.
And the facts folks, the facts say that Iran is not lying.
The other fact is that yes these facilites could become used for weapons grade plutonium production but that is also the case for any country that has nuclear power plants. As India and Pakistan have shown, who are not members of the Non Proliferation Pact, while Iran is.
But IAEA officials noted yesterday that they have not found proof of a weapons program and said Iran is still complying with basic, mandatory inspections that allow the agency to monitor all of its work with uranium. That access enabled the IAEA to report that Iran had "not suspended its enrichment related activities," as the Security Council required it to do by yesterday.
BASIC: Chamberlain on the Iran-EU Agreement and the NPT Regime - 10-03
However, all of the agreements outlined in Iran's declaration could be reversed. There will always be a risk, even if Natanz is fully inspected and under safeguards, that a completed facility could be switched to HEU weapons production within days. Moreover, Iran can legally withdraw from the NPT at three months notice, as did the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). As Iran has proved itself capable of building such a facility there is also a risk that even if it ceases work on Natanz, it could again build another gas centrifuge plant in secret. Iran may also, at some stage, have the capacity to produce and extract fissile plutonium and divert that to a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
The same accusation could be put to all States parties to the NPT with civil nuclear programmes. The key is to create an international political and security environment in which it is universally agreed that nuclear weapons have no role to play.
That will be kind of hard when the U.S. insists on building new weapons of mass destruction. Like the proposed nuclear bunker buster.
The National Nuclear Security Administration has proposed restarting full-scale plutonium pit production at the lab by 2012, to replace deteriorating pits in the nation's existing nuclear warheads.
Plutonium pits, often called the "triggers" of thermonuclear weapons, are the cores of modern hydrogen bombs, and the NNSA says the old pits need replacing to ensure the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Critics, however, contend it's a ruse to design, fashion and manufacture new types of bombs, including mininukes and "bunker busters."
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Russia on the other hand has attempted to provide a solution to this American confrontation, one which the Bush regime of course has rejected out of neo-con spite.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said in St. Petersburg that Russia was ready to set up an international centre providing nuclear fuel-cycle services on its territory. All countries interested in developing nuclear energy for civilian purposes would have equal access to its output, Putin said. The IAEA also regards the creation of common fuel sources as a key element in nuclear power regulation and non-proliferation measures
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