TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi has said the country may redesign its heavy water reactor in Arak by itself.
Salehi told Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV in an interview that should the parties tasked with modernizing the reactor drag their feet, Iran will turn to many of its options which are on the table.
Iran, he said, is now capable of designing nuclear facilities, not just reverse engineering, noting that Tehran can now assist Iraq in building research reactors.
Under a nuclear deal signed with Russia, China, the U.S., Britain, France and Germany in 2015, "Iran will redesign and rebuild a modernized heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on an agreed conceptual design, using fuel enriched up to 3.67 %, in a form of an international partnership which will certify the final design.”
In November 2015, the document on redesigning the heavy water reactor was signed by all parties to the nuclear deal.
But the agreement has been in jeopardy since the election of Donald Trump, who pulled out of the agreement in 2017.
The U.S. has since imposed new sanctions on Iran, targeting its atomic energy organization along with its banks, national airline and shipping companies.
The reactor at Arak, however, remained exempt from sanctions. But an increased rivalry between the U.S. and China has also raised the pressure on Beijing regarding its engagement with Iran.
Last month, Salehi complained that the Chinese were "reducing the speed of cooperation despite their commitment” to redesign the Arak heavy water reactor.
Salehi told the Islamic Republic News Agency that China feared possible U.S. sanctions on its nuclear-related firms if it continued its cooperation with his country.
He also urged China to re-engage with the project, but insisted that Iran had "alternative choices” if it continued to drag its feet.
Earlier last month, Behrooz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the AEOI, also accused China of delaying work on the project.
"Redesigning the Arak reactor with China is supposed to be proceeding faster,” Kamalvandi told the state news agency.
"Iran and China were supposed to cooperate in installing the equipment in the redesigning process,” Kamalvandi said, adding that his county was willing to start the next phase of work on its own if necessary.
James Floyd Downes, a lecturer in comparative politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Beijing may be "concerned about the possible sanctions on Chinese nuclear-related firms if it continues to cooperate with Iran”.