By Kamila Aliyeva
China and Iran plan to sign an agreement envisaging redesigning of the Arak Nuclear Power Plant in Iran.
“Chinese and Iranian companies initialed their first commercial contract on the renovation of the Arak heavy-water reactor in Beijing the other day, thanks to the efforts made by the two sides, which will be signed formally in Vienna on April 23,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at briefing on April 20.
Lu Kang recalled that China and the U.S. were joint heads of the working group on the Arak project, adding that smooth progress had been made on the plan.
"The signing of the agreement will create favorable conditions for the start-up of renovation work in real sense. China will continue working with relevant parties for follow-up matters in accordance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the consensus reached by all," he added.
The Arak reactor was one of the toughest sticking points in Iran's long-standing nuclear negotiations. The Arak heavy water reactor if operating optimally would have produced about nine kilograms of plutonium annually or enough for about two nuclear weapons each year.
The U.S. and the EU were concerned that the heavy water reactor could have been used to produce plutonium, which in turn might fuel a nuclear weapon as an alternative to highly enriched uranium.
Teran, however, said that weapons-grade plutonium was not produced by the Arak reactor.
He further stressed that China always firmly supports the JCPOA. “With the 7th meeting of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA to be held in Vienna on April 25 by the P5+1 and Iran, the successful signing of the agreement between China and Iran will create positive impetus for the meeting,” he said.
Under the JCPOA achieved between Iran and P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) and implemented in January 2016, Iran removed the Arak reactor’s core, while a new reactor with minimum plutonium production capacity is expected to be installed at the site.
The removal of the core was one of the final steps required by the deal. Moreover, Iran sold the heavy water produced in Arak during the past years to foreign countries, including the US.
The redesigned and rebuilt Arak reactor will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. Research reactors can be used for a number of legitimate civilian goals, including the production of medical isotopes.
Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva
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