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Iran: Arak Reactor Renovation at Good Speed

TEHRAN Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the reconstruction project of the Arak heavy water reactor is progressing at a good pace.

Salehi hailed on Thursday the good coordination between the Iranian, Chinese and British sides engaged in the reconstruction project of Arak reactor, saying the plan is going on at a good pace.

The joint committee for the reconstruction of Arak reactor, including China and Britain, is doing well... We are satisfied with the progress of the plan, Ali Akbar Salehi said, adding that "the plan has now been accelerated after a few months of hiatus.

The top atomic official noted that the various dimensions for reconstructing the facility, including the conceptual, detailed, and partial aspects, as well as the drawings, have been completed.

By specifying different dimensions of the equipment, the order is given to suppliers, he said, adding that project will commence as soon as the purchase orders are delivered.

Salehi also referred to the construction of the second phase of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, saying the project will start next month in cooperation with Russia.

Based on the plans, the second phase of the power plant will become operational in six years, and the third phase will come on stream within the next two years.

On Monday, Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalvandi warned that if Britain further delays implementation of its undertakings with regard to the redesigning Arak heavy water reactor, Tehran will return to the old reactor.

"Britain replaced the US in the project to redesign Arak heavy water (reactor after Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal) and it always claims that it can fill the vacuum created after the US left. Therefore, Iran has provided a list of its needed equipment for redesigning to assess the British claims of supporting Arak reactor's redesigning," Kamalvandi said on Monday.

He noted that Britain's measures to redesign Arak reactor have slowed down, and said if London continues the present pace, "Iran will return to the old reactor" which can also produce plutonium.

Meantime, Kamalvandi said although plutonium has many uses, Iran does not need it for now.

Washington withdrew from the internationally-endorsed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran on May 2018, reimposed the toughest-ever sanctions against the country and started a plan to zero down Tehran's oil sales.

Under the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six world powers in July 2015, Tehran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.

Yet, Iran continued compliance with deal, stressing that the remaining signatories to the agreement (specially the Europeans) had to work to offset the negative impacts of the US pullout for Iran if they want Tehran to remain in compliance. The Iranian officials had earlier warned that the European Union's failure in providing the needed ground for Tehran to enjoy the economic benefits of the nuclear deal would exhaust the country's patience.

Almost a year later, however, the EU failed to provide Tehran with its promised merits. Then, the US state department announced that it had not extended two waivers, one that allowed Iran to store excess heavy water produced in the uranium enrichment process in Oman, and one that allowed Iran to swap enriched uranium for raw yellowcake with Russia.

Until now, Iran was allowed to ship low-enriched uranium produced at Natanz to Russia before it hit the 300-kg limit and the US measure leaves no way for Tehran other than exceeding the ceiling for storing the enriched uranium in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Also, the United States would no longer waive sanctions that allowed Iran to ship heavy water produced at its Arak facility beyond a 300-ton limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal to Oman for storage which again forces Tehran to store it inside country in violation of the nuclear deal.

In return, Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) announced in a statement on May 8 that the country had modified two of its undertakings under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in return for the US abrogation of the deal and other signatories inability to make up for the losses under the agreement, warning that modifications would continue if the world powers failed to take action in line with their promises.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran declares that at the current stage, it does not any more see itself committed to respecting the limitations on keeping enriched uranium and heavy water reserves," the statement said.

Then Iran gave Europe 60 days to either normalize economic ties with Iran or accept the modification of Tehran's obligations under the agreement and implement the Europe's proposed INSTEX to facilitate trade with Iran.

Iran set up and registered a counterpart to INSTEX called Special Trade and Financing Instrument between Iran and Europe (STFI) to pave the way for bilateral trade.

Then on June 28, Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmid announced that INSTEX has become operational.

"INSTEX now operational, first transactions being processed and more EU Members States to join. Good progress on Arak and Fordow projects," Schmid wrote on her twitter account after a meeting of the Joint Commission on JCPOA ended in Vienna following three and a half hours of talks by the remaining signatories to the deal (the EU3 and Russia and China).

It was the 12th meeting of the Joint Commission on JCPOA in Vienna.

Meantime, seven European countries--Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden--in a joint statement expressed their support for the efforts for implementation of the INSTEX.

Later, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi described the nuclear deal joint commission meeting with the Europeans as "a step forward", but meantime, reminded that it did not meet Iran's expectations.

It was a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran's expectations, said Araqchi, who headed the Iranian delegation at the JCPOA joint commission meeting in Vienna.

In addition to their defiance of the JCPOA, the Europeans showed more animosity towards Iran and seized an Iranian oil tanker by Britain at the US request.

Acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Gibraltar detained the supertanker Grace 1 after a request by the United States to Britain.

Borrell was quoted as saying that Spain was looking into the seizure of the ship and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty as it appears to have happened in Spanish waters.

Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

Experts believe that the measure taken by the British government in seizing the Syria-bound Iranian tanker is illegal and can have serious consequences for the government in London.

Source: Fars News Agency