Iran has suspect heavy water plant
The Herald, UK
17 Dec, 2003
Iran confirmed it has almost completed a plant which would produce heavy water, an aspect of its nuclear programme which has aroused particular suspicion among arms experts.
The announcement came as an Israeli intelligence chief called Iran the "No 1 terror nation" and claimed it was plotting relentlessly to attack Israeli targets.
Heavy-water reactors can use natural, non-enriched uranium as fuel, which can then be reprocessed to extract weapons-grade plutonium.
Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the vice president, said some parts of the heavy-water production plant, being built near the central town of Arak, were already operational.
"The project has made 80% progress in general and 90% in equipment and installation," he said.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful, and in the next few days it is expected to sign an international protocol binding it to snap inspections of its nuclear facilities by United Nations inspectors.
The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month accused Iran of an 18-year cover-up of sensitive nuclear research and warned Tehran any further breaches could see its case sent to the UN security council.
Iran has told the IAEA it plans to build a 40-megawatt heavy-water reactor at Arak for research and development and the production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial use.
Arms experts, however, have questioned why Iran needs a heavy-water project of such scale, and the IAEA noted Iran had been tardy in providing details of the plant's design and purpose.
"Iran is the No 1 terror nation in the world," Avi Dichter, head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, told a conference on security yesterday.
He claimed Iran was sponsoring terrorism and developing non-conventional weapons, and posed a strategic threat.
"It is clear that because of terror, Iran presents a strategic threat to Israel. And if you connect the other abilities that Iran is developing to this, the threat is even bigger," he said, in an apparent reference to Tehran's nuclear programme.
He said the United States, the European Union and Russia need to restrain Iran. Moshe Yaalon, the army chief of staff, also described Iran as a serious threat. http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/6494.html