Iran Nuclear Bomb Pursuit Focus on Plutonium, Not Uranium, Images Indicate

Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 01:14 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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Satellite images reveal that an Iranian plant about 150 miles southwest of Tehran contains a heavy-water factory, one of the key elements used in the production of plutonium, which can be used to build nuclear bombs, the Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.

Until now, Iran was thought to be cultivating and enriching its supply of uranium to boost its attempts at nuclear proficiency. However, it appears the country has been exploring another option, perhaps anticipating this past Tuesday's meeting with United Nations diplomats, who are trying to place limits on Iran's uranium enrichment program.

The satellite images, published by the Telegraph, show a plume of steam billowing up from the complex in Arak, indicating heavy-water production. Heavy water in a nuclear reactor would enable Iran to produce the isotope Plutonium-239, which is the main component of most nuclear bombs in existence around the world, according to the Telegraph. The country still reportedly lacks the technology to reprocess plutonium as a weapon.

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The heavily guarded facility has been off limits to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency since August 2011, but officials have been able to visit the adjacent inactive nuclear reactor.

Officials from the United States, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, and France began talks with Iran on Tuesday in Kazakhstan. The countries were expected to offer sanctions relief if Iran curbs its efforts to produce material for nuclear weapons. Iran has insisted that its nuclear facilities are for peaceful use. The meeting was said to have reached a "turning point" for the better Wednesday, according to the secretary for Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

"In this round of talks we have witnessed that despite all the attitudes during the last eight months, they tried to get closer to our viewpoints," Saeed Jalili told reporters through an interpreter at the close of two days of talks in Kazakhstan Wednesday. "We believe this is a turning point."

The nuclear reactor at Arak is scheduled to become active in early 2014 for "civilian purposes," according to the Iranian reports to IAEA.

Related stories:

Nuclear Iran Is Beyond Frightening

Ahmadinejad: We're Nuclear But Won't Harm Israel

McCain: US Ineffective in Stopping a Nuclear Iran

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