Images show Iran heavy-water plant nearly done
Updated: 2005-03-05 08:44
New satellite images show a heavy water plant in Iran, intended to supply a
research reactor that could eventually produce plutonium for one atomic bomb a
year, is nearly complete, a U.S. think-tank said on Friday.
The photos of the plant in Arak, 150 miles south of Tehran, were taken in
February by the U.S. commercial satellite firms DigitalGlobe and Space Imaging
and provided to Reuters by the Institute for Science and International Security
(ISIS), a U.S. think-tank.
"Adjacent to the reactor construction site (in Arak) is the heavy water
production plant, which is almost completed and is anticipated to supply the
necessary heavy water for the heavy water reactor," ISIS said in an analysis of
While there is nothing illegal about the plant, the news that it is nearly
done will likely deepen U.S. suspicions that Iran wants heavy-water technology
to get plutonium for bombs.
Iran has started building a research reactor
that could eventually produce enough plutonium for one bomb per year,
ignoring calls to scrap the project, diplomats close to the U.N. said on
March 3, 2005. The Arak heavy water production facility in Central Iran,
360 km south west of Tehran, is seen in this October 2004 file photo.
On Thursday, Western diplomats close to the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Iran
had already laid the foundations for the 40-megawatt heavy-water research
reactor at Arak, despite calls by the European Union and the United Nations to
scrap the project.
Heavy-water reactors can be used to produce significant amounts of bomb-grade
plutonium, which can then be extracted from the spent fuel by a process known as
"No evidence of any reprocessing facilities can be seen in the satellite
images," ISIS said in its analysis of the imagery.
David Albright, who heads ISIS and was formerly a U.N. weapons inspector,
said he had also seen photographs of what appeared to be steam coming out of the
Arak heavy water plant.
"We think they have been testing it," Albright said.
The Arak heavy-water production plant, along with the Natanz uranium
enrichment plant, was revealed by the National Council of Resistance of Iran
(NCRI) in August 2002, an exile group that described it as part of a secret
nuclear weapons program.
Iran, which denies wanting to produce anything but electricity with its
atomic facilities, later declared the Natanz and Arak sites to the U.N.'s
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Washington sided with the NCRI view, accusing Tehran of pursuing weapons
under cover of a civilian atomic program.
Iran has not been ordered by the EU to halt the heavy-water production plant,
but ISIS analyst Corey Hinderstein said the plant had no purpose other than to
supply the future research reactor -- which Iran has been urged not to