April 20, 2014 By ALI AKBAR DAREINI , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS TEHRAN, Iran - Iran will redesign its Arak heavy water reactor to greatly limit the amount of plutonium it can make, the country's vice president said Saturday, marking a major concession from the Islamic Republic in negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear program.
The comments by Vice PresidentAli Akbar Salehi come as the talks face an informal July 20 deadline to hammer out a final deal to limit Iran's ability to build nuclear arms in exchange for ending the crippling economic sanctions it faces.
Iranian state television quoted Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that Iran has proposed to redesign Arak to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it. He said that will eliminate concerns the West has that Iran could use the plutonium produced at Arak to build a nuclear weapon. "The issue of heavy water reactor ... has been virtually resolved," state television quoted Salehi as saying. "Iran has offered a proposal to ... redesign the heart of the Arak facility and these six countries have agreed to that."
There was no immediate comment from world powers, which include China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Russia. However, what to do with Arak, a still under-construction 40-megawatt heavy water plant in central Iran, is a key factor in negotiations.
Iranian Foreign MinisterMohammad Javad Zarif, his country's chief negotiator, suggested in March his country might redesign Arak to allay the West's fears. The West suspects Iran could use its nuclear program to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes, like power generation and medical research.
Salehi said the U.S. and its allies "constantly say Iran has to give up its heavy water reactor because it provides a breakout capacity."
"We took this pretext from their hands," he said.
Redesigning the reactor will delay its launch by about three years, Salehi said. He said instead of uranium oxide, the reactor will use low enriched uranium. Changing the fuel is part of the technical modifications that greatly reduce the amount of plutonium made by the reactor.
Salehi also said Iran has completed diluting its higher enriched uranium into less volatile forms as part of an interim deal reached last November with world powers. ------ ...