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Iran may modify Arak heavy water reactors to address nuclear concerns

4 years ago1.8K views

Originally published on February 6, 2014

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Iran is willing to modify the heavy water reactors planned for Arak, its energy chief said in a statement on Thursday (February 6).

U.S. and European nonproliferation specialists fear that the Arak reactors could provide a supply of plutonium that can be used for the production of nuclear weapons.

"We can do some design change - in other words, make some change in the design in order to produce less plutonium in this reactor and in this way allay the worries and mitigate the concerns," Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in an interview with Iran's official English-language Press TV.

Iran also says that its atomic program is dedicated to civilian energy and for medical uses. The reactors in Arak are intended to produce isotopes for treating cancer patients.

Experts suggest that converting the heavy water reactors to light reactors may pose less of a proliferation threat.

Heavy water reactors use water comprised of a heavier isotope of hydrogen, known as deuterium. In the reactor, uranium undergoes fission in a reactor rod, expelling two neutrons.

Deuterium in heavy water effectively slows down the neutrons, allowing it to be absorbed into uranium. With the release of two additional electrons, uranium is converted to plutonium.

Heavy water reactors can use raw uranium as fuel, and also produce more plutonium byproduct than light water reactors.

This animation shows the process involved.

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