Iran is taking preliminary steps to design uranium fuel with a purity of 20 percent for reactors instead of having to copy foreign designs, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Sunday.
The 2015 nuclear agreement between major global powers limits the Uranium enrichment level at 3.67 percent, well below the 20 percent established before the pact. It is also under the 90 percent suitable for nuclear weapons.
However, Iran is allowed to produce nuclear fuel under strict conditions that must be approved by a work group established by the signatories.
These requirements include ensuring that the fuel cannot be converted to uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for centrifuges that enrich uranium.
Advances in Uranium fuel design
The Islamic nation has made such “great progress in nuclear science and industry” that enable to “instead of reverse-engineering and the use of designs by others, we can design new fuel ourselves,” state broadcaster IRIB quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying.
Salehi assured that the “initial measures have been started for the design of modern 20 percent fuel”. He highlighted that they are on the verge of (achieving) it. “This product is different from the previous 20 percent fuel,” he said, and added that “we can supply fuel to any reactor that is built like the Tehran reactor.”
This fuel can “increase the performance” of the Tehran research reactor. Until now, this complex consumed the old version of nuclear fuel.
“The Tehran reactor has so far been working with old fuel, but modern fuel can improve efficiency,” he added.
Salehi praised the country’s progress in nuclear energy. He assured that Iranian scientists have made such progress that, now, they are able to design a new Uranium fuel.
In mid-December, the director of AEOI highlighted the scientific progress made by the Islamic Republic in terms of nuclear power. He clarified that the 2015 nuclear pact does not ban “pacific activities in the Iranian nuclear industry”. The agreement was signed by Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany).
Under this nuclear deal, Iran agreed to set certain limits for its nuclear program. In exchange, among other things, the sanctions against its nuclear program were lifted. The agreement is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA).
Plans to build nuclear reactors
Although Uranium fuel supply and the production at the control room are the two main challenges when it comes to building any nuclear reactor, “designing reactors has now become a very possible task for Iranian experts,” Salehi added.
In June, the AEAI announced that the reconstruction of the heavy water Arak reactor will commence as soon as Chinese experts finish redesigning these facilities in accordance with the terms of the JCPA.
The JCPA establishes a 3.67 percent limit of Uranium purity allowed. However, it does allow Iran to produce fuel under strict conditions, and subject to supervision from independent bodies.
In November 2018, the U.S. government granted waivers for its second round of sanctions against Iran for three Persian nuclear stations. Said stations will be able to continue operations for pacific purposes as they did thus far. Nonetheless, the Federal government warned they would be “under strict scrutiny,” hoping to prevent the development of a nuclear weapon, the Department of State informed.
The first of these facilities is Arak, a heavy water nuclear complex located at the heart of Iran. The other two benefitted by this decision are Bushehr, a nuclear reactor located in the Southern region, and Fordow, a Uranium enrichment plant near Qom; built underground to protect it from a military attack.
For more information, check Energía16