Heavy Water Limit Not Violated

The 130-metric-ton limit on heavy water mentioned in the nuclear deal is only an estimate, meaning that 1-2% beyond that estimated amount is technically allowable
Reza Najafi Reza Najafi

Iran’s nuclear organization dismissed criticism that Tehran has overstepped a limit on its heavy water stockpile, invoking the loose wording used in the text of the nuclear agreement to specify that limit.

A recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that oversees the accord claimed Tehran has surpassed the 130-metric-ton threshold for heavy water, Reuters reported.

It is a material used as a moderator in reactors like Iran’s unfinished one at Arak that has been put out of use.

Iran accepted that limit on its nuclear program as part of its commitments under the landmark accord, which was concluded last year and put in place in January to remove international sanctions in return.

The report said it had 130.1 tons of the material.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano urged Tehran in an address to the agency’s quarterly Board of Governors meeting on Thursday to avoid such situations that might undermine “international confidence”.

Reza Najafi, spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the meeting that technically the surplus is negligible, IRNA reported.

“The 130-metric-ton limit mentioned in the JCPOA is only an estimate. This means that 1-2% beyond that estimated amount is technically allowable, so that extra amount cannot be considered excessive,” he said.

He was using an abbreviation for the deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The deal stipulates that Iran should not have more heavy water than it needs, adding that those needs are estimated to be 130 tons.

It requires Iran to sell, dilute or dispose of the excessive supplies, under certain conditions.

  Contacts With Potential Buyers

Najafi said Iran has been in contact with “potential buyers” of the material and that it may reduce the stockpile to below 125 metric tons.

“Iran is making some preparations. It needs some work to be done,” he said.

Iranian officials announced in early June that a controversial deal with the US companies for the sale of 32 tons of heavy water had gone ahead, despite opposition from hawkish US lawmakers.

Russian media also reported about a month ago that Moscow had received the deliveries of 38 tons of Iran’s heavy water under a purchase deal.

Iran is now in the process of reaching similar agreements with European firms.

Amano said Iran “is preparing to transfer a quantity of heavy water to other countries” and the agency is monitoring this.

IAEA has repeatedly said that Iran is meeting its other commitments under the action plan, which includes a pledge to redesign and rebuild the Arak heavy water reactor.

It is the second time that the Vienna-based agency reports that Iran’s stocks of heavy water have slightly exceeded 130 tons.

US officials first played it down, stressing Tehran had made no effort to hide the material from the agency and had pledged to correct the situation.

But in her statement to the board’s meeting, US ambassador to the IAEA, Laura Holgate, rebuked Tehran, saying, “Iran must strictly adhere to all commitments and technical measures for their duration. We note with concern Iran’s accumulation of heavy water in excess of the limit set forth in the JCPOA of 130 metric tons.”


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