News / Middle East

    US Experts: Modify Iran's Arak Plant to Reduce Bomb Threat

    FILE - A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 kilometers southwest of Tehran, Iran.
    FILE - A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 kilometers southwest of Tehran, Iran.
    Reuters
    Changes to the design of Iran's planned Arak research reactor could drastically reduce its output of potential nuclear weapon material, U.S. experts said in a proposal.

    How to deal with Arak is one of several issues that must be tackled in negotiations between Iran and six global powers that got under way in February with the aim of reaching a long-term deal on the decade-old nuclear dispute by late July.

    Princeton University academics said annual production of plutonium could be cut to less than a kilogram - well below the roughly eight kilograms needed for an atomic bomb - if Iran altered the way the plant is fueled, and if it lowered its power capacity.

    “These redesigns would not reduce the usefulness of the reactor for making radioisotopes and conducting research,” wrote Ali Ahmad, Frank von Hippel, Alexander Glaser and Zia Mian - members of Princeton's Program on Science and Global Security.

    “This approach would meet Iran's needs and would address the concerns of the international community,” said their article, due to be published on Wednesday by the online journal of the Arms Control Association, a U.S. research and advocacy group.

    Iran denies Western allegations that it is seeking the capability to make nuclear bombs, saying its program is aimed at generating electricity and carrying out peaceful research.

    Experts from Iran and the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain and China are due to meet in Vienna for three days from Thursday to be followed by a third round of political-level talks next week.

    Western powers fear Arak could provide a supply of plutonium - one of two materials, along with highly enriched uranium, that can trigger a nuclear explosion - once operational.

    The Islamic Republic has said its 40-megawatt, heavy-water reactor is intended to produce isotopes for cancer and other medical treatments. Iran agreed to halt installation work at Arak under an interim deal reached with the powers last year.

    Their positions seem far apart. Iran has ruled out shutting down any nuclear site, including Arak, which has been under construction for years. The United States says it sees no need for Arak as part of a civilian nuclear program.

    Win-win solution for Arak?

    However, the head of Iran's atomic energy organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, in February signaled some flexibility, saying it was prepared to modify Arak to help allay any concerns.

    Heavy-water reactors, fueled by natural uranium, are seen as especially suitable for yielding plutonium. To do so, however, a nuclear reprocessing plant would also be needed to extract the plutonium. Iran is not known to have any such plant.

    If operating optimally, Arak could produce about nine kg of plutonium annually, the U.S. Institute for Science and International Security says.

    Any long-term deal must lower that amount, experts say.

    The Princeton University experts said that changing Arak's fueling and operating power would make it less of a proliferation concern, even if it were to remain a heavy water-moderated reactor.

    “The conversion steps described above are technically feasible,” they said in the article titled “A Win-Win Solution for Iran's Arak Reactor.”

    Robert Einhorn, a former U.S. State Department official on Iran, said that at a minimum, using enriched uranium fuel and reducing the power level would be required for Arak. He said preferably it also would be converted to a light-water reactor, however, which is a more extensive reconfiguration step that Iran may resist.

    Arak was still a less immediate concern than Iran's existing uranium enrichment program, which gives it the ability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb in a couple of months, Einhorn said in a new report.

    You May Like

    Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Frankie from: U.S
    April 03, 2014 11:09 PM
    Funny stuff you guys. Bomb the place? And who should do this again?? Right Mr. Mobarak. Try again you jerk.

    by: WorldView from: USA
    April 02, 2014 8:03 PM
    The head of Iran's atomic energy organization Salehi already proposed changes to the Arak reactor design several months ago. The author(s) of this article seem not to be aware of this fact. All the ballyhoo about Arak is nonsense. Even a light-water reactor can produce plutonium.

    Marwan from Egypt: When you live in a civilized country where the army doesn't massacre thousands in the streets, then you can talk about other countries. Right now, you live in a backward dump.

    by: Marwan from: Egypt
    April 02, 2014 3:48 PM
    modify it..??? hey, Idiot, you should bomb the damned thing..!!! reduce it to a pile of dirt. or you will have no peace... not in the Middle East nor at your home. it seems that the Americans have not yet understood the depravity of the Iranians.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 03, 2014 3:54 PM
    Is this Mawan Stein Berger trying to sound like an egyptian?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.