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Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad at the Arak heavy-water plant (file photo) (epa) November 18, 2006 -- The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization says Iran will complete a heavy-water nuclear reactor it is building, with or without the help of the UN nuclear watchdog.

Gholam Reza Aghazadeh also said that the four-decades-old light-water reactor in Tehran will be shut down only after the heavy-water reactor at Arak becomes operational in 2009.

Iran is seeking technical assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency to complete the heavy-water reactor it is building in Arak, southeast of Tehran. Iran says the plant would make isotopes for medical and other peaceful purposes.

Heavy-water reactors can be used to produce plutonium to make atomic bombs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly urged Iran to abandon the Arak project.

Talking Technical

A control panel at the Bushehr nuclear power plant (Fars)

CASCADES AND CENTRIFUGES: Experts and pundits alike continue to debate the goals and status of Iran's nuclear program. It remains unclear whether the program is, as Tehran insists, a purely peaceful enegy project or, as the United States claims, part of an effort to acquire nuclear weapons.
On June 7, 2006, RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel spoke with nuclear expert Shannon Kile of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden to help sort through some of the technical issues involved. "[Natanz] will be quite a large plant," Kile said. "There will be about 50,000 centrifuges and how much enriched uranium that can produce [is] hard to say because the efficiency of the centrifuges is not really known yet. But it would clearly be enough to be able to produce enough [highly-enriched uranium] for a nuclear weapon in fairly short order, if that's the route that they chose to go...." (more)


Tehran Says It Is Working On Advanced Nuclear Fusion

Would Light-Water Reactor Suit Tehran's Needs?

Satellite Images Raise Questions About Iran's Nuclear Program

Centrifuges And Political Spin?

How Close Is Iran To Getting Nuclear Bomb?

Iran: The Worst-Case Scenarios

THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.