The Telegraph has published images showing that Iran has activated the heavy-water production plant in its Arak complex. Heavy water is necessary to operate nuclear reactors capable of producing plutonium, which Tehran could then process further to produce weapons-grade nuclear material.
The published images show a cloud of steam that indicates heavy-water production. They are the first photographs in the public domain to confirm such activity at Arak, and highlight the diverse methods that the Iranian regime has developed in what is widely believed to be its pursuit of nuclear weapons:
Previously, international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme have focused on the Islamic Republic’s attempts to enrich uranium at plants including Fordow. But the new images of Arak highlight the progress Iran has made on facilities that could allow it to produce plutonium, potentially giving the country a second option in developing a nuclear weapon. An Iranian bomb would allow the regime to dissuade any Western challenge and extend its influence in the Middle East.
Proliferation experts have known about the potential for Iran to use the Arak plant as part of a weapons program since construction began on the facility in the mid-2000s. The Telegraph describes the potential pathway — heavy-water production, plutonium production, and plutonium processing — as Iran’s “Plan B” for producing nuclear weapons. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program had relied on a similar pathway.
Along with the heavy water production plant, the Arak complex also contains a nuclear reactor. IAEA inspectors recently indicated that key parts of the reactor are “almost complete.” Inspectors have not been allowed to visit the part of the complex housing the heavy water production plant in 18 months.
The news of activity at Arak is likely to the deepen the concerns of Arab states that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons and then use the immunity they provide to press its territorial claims in the region, which include the entire nation of Bahrain. A recent statement by the Gulf Cooperation Council more broadly blasted Iran for interfering in the domestic affairs of Arab states. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have publicly and privately urged the U.S. to take military action against the Iranian nuclear program.
The Telegraph speculates that the Arak complex is the “most tightly defended” nuclear facility in Iran.
[Photo: The Telegraph]