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Enrichment, Arak Among Key Hurdles in Iran Nuclear Talks

Image: Enrichment, Arak Among Key Hurdles in Iran Nuclear Talks
The EU's Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend the first day of the second round of P5+1 talks with Iran at UN headquarters in Vienna on March 18.

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 11:14 AM

The future scope of Iran's uranium enrichment program and the fate of its Arak reactor — projects the West fears could yield atom bomb fuel — must be agreed if a decade-old dispute over Tehran's atomic activity is to be finally settled.

Both issues are expected to be on the agenda during a March 18-19 meeting between Iran and six world powers — the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — in Vienna. Iran says its nuclear work is peaceful.

The aim is to reach a comprehensive agreement by late July that would define the permissible size of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions that have severely hurt the Islamic Republic's oil exports.

Here is a brief overview of the key issues involved:

 

Uranium enrichment

Western powers have in effect abandoned idea that Iran must halt all its enrichment of uranium, which they fear may be aimed at developing atomic bombs, but want it curbed.

Iran says it refines uranium to fuel nuclear power plants, rules out closing Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities.

It now has nearly 10,000 centrifuges spinning at supersonic speed to increase the ratio of the fissile isotope. That number should be cut to the low thousands, Western experts say.

The United States and allies want to deny Iran any capability to quickly dash for a nuclear bomb.

 

Centrifuge research

Iran is developing new centrifuge models at Natanz and modern machines could enrich uranium faster.

Interim accord allows Iran to continue existing R&D, but powers will likely seek strict limits on R&D.

 

Arak

The West fears the planned heavy water research reactor could yield plutonium, potential bomb fuel.

Iran says Arak is designed to produce medical isotopes.

Western experts say the reactor could be changed to ease bomb fears, for example by reducing power or changing fuel.

IAEA probe

The U.N. nuclear watchdog is investigating suspicions Iran may have researched how to build an atomic bomb. Tehran denies it.

Western officials say Iran must address allegations as part of a settlement on the broader dispute.

Sanctions

Iran wants punitive measures lifted quickly, but powers are likely to do so only gradually under any deal.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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The future scope of Iran's uranium enrichment program and the fate of its Arak reactor — projects the West fears could yield atom bomb fuel — must be agreed if a decade-old dispute over Tehran's atomic activity is to be finally settled.
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2014-14-18
Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 11:14 AM
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