Europe Interested in Iran’s Heavy Water

Europe Interested in Iran’s Heavy Water
Europe Interested in Iran’s Heavy Water

Iran's nuclear chief said some European states have expressed interest in buying Iran's heavy water, for which a controversial deal has been signed with the US and negotiations are underway with Russians.

Among temporary curbs Iran accepted on its nuclear program under last July's agreement with major powers was cutting its reserves of heavy water below 130 tons by selling, diluting or disposing of the excess amounts, under certain conditions.

The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has been in effect since mid-January, providing for Iran's sanctions relief in return, IRNA reported.

"European countries have requested to buy 20 tons of our heavy water," Ali Akbar Salehi also said on Tuesday.

Salehi was addressing a ceremony to mark the beginning of preparations for the conversion of Iran's Fordo uranium enrichment plant into a production facility for heavy isotopes in compliance with the JCPOA commitments.

"We are able to produce 20 tons of heavy water annually. There are plenty of customers for our strategic product, given that it is produced by a few countries."

Heavy water is a component of producing nuclear energy, which is not radioactive. Iran finalized a deal with US companies to sell 32 tons of its heavy water in April.

Days later, the US Supreme Court ordered $2 billion of Iran's locked funds abroad to be turned over to families of the US soldiers killed in terrorist attacks allegedly linked to Iran. The court's ruling has sparked protest from Tehran, which has vowed to sue Americans in international courts.

Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said he has instructed the heavy water agreement with the United States to be put on hold, pending the resolution of the court dispute.

"After the US decision to steal $2 billion of our national assets, I have asked my colleagues to call off the delivery of the heavy water cargo to the US until the situation is resolved."

"Had we shipped the cargo, it could have been confiscated in the US. We have made clear that we will not send the delivery before receiving the full payment."

US lawmakers, largely those opposed to the JCPOA, have made multiple attempts to kill the heavy water deal, including legislation passed in the House of Representatives a week ago aimed at barring the White House from going ahead with the agreement.

The measure has yet to get through the Senate and around a promised presidential veto to become law. Head of the Foreign Ministry's office for the JCPOA implementation, Abbas Araqchi, has said the legislation would not pose a serious challenge to Iran's plans to sell heavy water.

"The legislation, even if finalized, is no big deal," he said. Salehi echoed Araqchi's assurances, saying in case there is no demand for Tehran's heavy water "we can produce and store it."

"Talks to sell Russia about 40 tons of Iran's supplies are continuing," he said.

"Much of the project is being conducted in cooperation with Russians. It involves some adjustments to IR-1 centrifuges to make them into stable-isotope producing machines."