Amit Baruah

90 per cent input of Arak heavy water complex is indigenous

Reactor to be ready in next three years Ready for cooperation with India in nuclear field

ARAK (Central Iran): Iranian engineers and scientists are proud of their first-ever indigenously built heavy water complex here. It can produce 16 tonnes of heavy water annually.

This correspondent was among a group of 14 Indians, which included academics, former diplomats and a scientist, that was given access to the Arak complex on Sunday.

It was the first time a foreign delegation entered the Arak complex after the heavy water plant was commissioned in August 2006. Two teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have, however, visited the plant since August last.

The plant, which has come up at a place five km from Khondab city, is to supply heavy water for an under construction, 40-megawatt research reactor being built nearby. Officials say that the heavy water will be used to cool and moderate the nuclear reactor.

At a time when the U.S. and its allies in the West are putting unprecedented pressure on the Iranian Government over the nuclear issue, it's clear that the Iranians are forging ahead in their efforts to build an indigenous nuclear power capability.

The Arak complex, commissioned by President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, has a 90 per cent indigenous input, Ali Hajinia, director of the facility, told the visiting delegation.

As much as 90 per cent of the design and fabrication was done within Iran and only 10 per cent of help was sought from abroad. A feasibility study for the Arak complex began in 1997 and construction commenced soon after.

Mr. Hajinia said that heavy water production was akin to the processes used in the oil and petrochemical industry an area in which Iran possessed advanced technical expertise.

The director maintained that natural uranium, found in the Yazd province, would be used to fuel the research reactor. Though the reactor was being built separately, the idea was to have the reactor and the heavy water complex under one management, eventually. The reactor itself was likely to be ready in the next three years, Mr. Hajinia said.

On whether the Iranian side was interested in seeking Indian assistance in the civilian nuclear sector, Mr. Madadi, who took the delegation around the plant, replied in the affirmative.

Unfortunately, at present, there was no cooperation between India and Iran in the civilian nuclear sector. ``The situation will be better if we can get help from India,'' he maintained. ``We are ready to do [cooperate with India]."

According to Mr. Madadi, Iran was ready to shake hands with all countries that were willing to work with it in building up its civilian nuclear power sector.

As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has the right to develop its civilian nuclear sector. Also, the five recognised nuclear States under the NPT the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China - are committed to help this process under the treaty.