Iran modifies Arak reactor over nuclear concerns
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif - REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

TEHRAN:  Iran said Wednesday it has started to modify its Arak heavy water reactor and limit plutonium output, a cause of Western concerns over the country’s nuclear program.

“Modification of the heart of the Arak reactor is in the process of being carried out by our experts … to ease the worries of certain countries,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads Iran’s nuclear program, quoted by ISNA news agency.

“Foreign ministry officials have been informed of the technical details of these modifications,” Salehi said.

The reactor in Arak, 240 kilometers (145 miles) southwest of Tehran, could in theory provide Iran with weapons-grade plutonium.

But the 40-megawatt reactor, whose construction is being supervised by the UN nuclear watchdog, is solely for research purposes, notably medical, according to Tehran.

Iranian officials have said its design will be modified to produce 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) of plutonium a year instead of eight kilograms as originally planned.

Under an interim agreement with world powers which came into effect in January, Iran agreed to scale back part of its nuclear program in return for a partial lifting of Western sanctions.

A final deal has a target date of Nov. 24.

Tehran denies Western charges that it seeks nuclear weapons, insisting it is pursuing atomic energy purely for peaceful purposes.

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