Talks on Arak Reactor to Start Within Weeks

Talks on Arak Reactor to Start Within WeeksTalks on Arak Reactor to Start Within Weeks

Iran, China and the United States will hold a trilateral meeting in the coming weeks to coordinate their cooperation on the redesign of the Arak heavy water reactor as agreed under last July's nuclear agreement, a nuclear official said.

China and the US, along with four other major powers, namely France, Britain and Russia plus Germany, negotiated the deal with Iran.

Formally titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement came into effect to provide for sanctions relief in return for temporary curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.

Among the curbs is the call to reconfigure the Arak reactor, converting it into a conventional facility.

Tehran has consistently denied its nuclear program was meant to develop a nuclear bomb, saying it was for civilian purposes only.

A joint "statement of intent" was released by Tehran, Washington and Beijing on Oct. 18, 2015 to announce cooperation on the Arak modernization project and, shortly afterward, the three signed a related document.

"A working group has been set up, under the chairmanship of China and the US…The group represents all the parties to the nuclear deal with Iran," the statement said.

It added that the three parties "intend to work together to conclude expeditiously the official document, as contemplated in the JCPOA, that will, consistent with their national laws, establish the responsibilities and functioning of the working group…, with the aim of expediting the completion of the project in a timely fashion." 

The spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Sunday  negotiations on various dimensions of the cooperation are underway.

"We mainly deal with China. Lengthy meetings have been held on legal, technical, commercial and other aspects [of the project]. Iran and China will soon exchange delegations in this relation," Behrouz Kamalvandi said in an interview with the Persian-language newspaper Etemad.

"Iran, China and the US will meet in the coming weeks to help advance the Arak redesign project in a coordinated fashion," he said, naming Vienna as the likely venue for the talks.

 Heavy Water Deal

The JCPOA has also committed Iran to cut its reserves of heavy water below 130 tons by selling, diluting or disposing of the excess amounts, under certain conditions.

A deal was finalized with US companies to sell 32 tons of Tehran's heavy water in April.

Its implementation, however, has been challenged by opposition from hawkish US lawmakers, who have made several failed attempts to derail the agreement.

Earlier this month, AEOI Director Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran would send a cargo of heavy water to the US within weeks.

"Some talks have been underway, but money hasn't yet been deposited and when it is deposited [by the US], we will send the heavy water… The heavy water now is stored [in Oman] and … when we receive the money, we will deliver it."

Commenting on the issue, Kamalvandi echoed Salehi's words, saying, "Details are being finalized and I believe the agreement will be concluded shortly."