In 2006 proliferation experts began to call attention to Iran’s efforts to build a “plutonium bomb factory” at its Arak facility, which contains a heavy water production plant and a nuclear reactor capable of using the heavy water to produce plutonium. Last February the Telegraph published exclusive images demonstrating that Iran had activated the heavy water production facility, and needed only to activate the reactor in order to begin producing the materials for weapons-grade plutonium. Last June Iran committed to bringing the reactor online by 2014.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Iran has continued to make “significant advances” in recent months, putting Tehran in a position to start producing two bombs’ worth of weapons-grade plutonium by next summer. U.S. and European officials cited by the WSJ – and charged with monitoring Iran’s progress – seemed nonplussed:
In recent months, U.S. and European officials say, the Tehran regime has made significant advances on the construction of a heavy water reactor in the northwestern city of Arak. A reactor like the one under construction is capable of using the uranium fuel to produce 40 megawatts of power… The IAEA has been monitoring Arak since its construction began. But following Iran’s latest timeline, the site’s importance has vastly shot up for Washington and Brussels, said U.S. and European officials. “It really crept up on us,” said an official based at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters.
The revelations come as the country’s new president Hassan Rouhani was sworn in, and continued development of the facility may be read by diplomats as a thread of continuity between his administration and that of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
[Photo: Nanking2012 / Wiki Commons]