Jeffrey LewisIAEA to Visit Arak

The IAEA announces, and ISNA confirms, that IAEA inspectors will be able to visit the 40 MW Heavy Water Reactor near Arak.

I am deeply suspicious of this reactor—which looks a lot like the reactors that were used in India, Israel Pakistan and Taiwan’s bomb programs. Getting the IAEA in, along with appropriate monitoring arrangements, is a priority.

No one in the open source community has been keeping a closer eye on construction at Arak than David Albright and Paul Brannan.


  1. hass

    This reactor, going full-bore, can at best produce enough fissile material for 1 or 1.5 nuclear weapons per year. Not exactly a “bomb factory” now, is it?

  2. Locked (History)

    The last link is not correct. It should be

  3. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    30-50 MW was big enough for the nuclear weapons programs of India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea.

  4. hass

    Neither of which are/were monitored by the IAEA…

  5. MEC (History)

    There is a difference between given access and given access, is there not? What are the chances that they are given full and unfettered “access”?

  6. Allen Thomson

    To return to a previous question:

    Is there any indication of tritium removal/recovery technology being used at Arak? Bombs are frequently yummier if spiced up with a soupçon of DT.

  7. Muskrat (History)

    What’s with the green belt around the plant and in the distance? Does somebody’s cousin have a landscaping business? Is it like a canary in a coal mine: dead vegetation = slow reactor leak? Is it to keep prying roadbound eyes away from the plant? Or do nuclear proliferators work better when they have soothing greenery to look at outside the window? Did AQ Khan bring a fondness for horticulture back from the Netherlands too?

  8. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Actually, Khan did — according to Bill Langeweische:

    Khan’s house by comparison seems modest now, all the more so because it is shuttered and abandoned. Even on sun-filled days there is a sadness to the scene; in the afternoons when the wind comes up, there is nonetheless a stillness. Khan’s garden, which slopes to the shore and was once his pride, is growing wild.

    You can see that KRL is actually quite lush.

  9. hass

    Suspicious landscaping! PROOF of a nuclear weapons AT LAST!

  10. Andy (History)

    Actually, I would bet the trees surrounding the complex serve primarily as windbreaks, but also may be productive orchards (judging by the uniformity of both species and spacing). If one were to “google earth” around the city of Arak and its environs, one would see many similar orchards in similar configurations.

  11. Pedro

    Given that heavy-water reactors use natural uranium, which is easy for the Iranians to produce themselves, it’s just a good idea to build a heavy-water based research reactor.

    In its current state the Natanz facility is just large enough to produce the needed LEU for the Busher 1000 MW LW reactor.

    Therefore it’s just safe to have a research reactor which uses fuel from another source than the, at that time still experimental centrifuge enriched uranium program.

    The technologies which might have been available to Iran on the market were most likely designs like those from Pakistan and India.

    The option of a light-water research reactor provided by the Europeans, would mean that the fuel would also come from aboard (there would be no Iranian enrichment program if the European package was taken by Iran).

  12. Andreas Persbo

    Actually, the Pakistanis often use lush vegetation to cover their buildings from aerial or space surveillance. It’s an old trick. You can either burn something to create an artificial cloud cover, or you can plant trees and stuff. To illustrate, check out the location of Pakistan’s main ordinance factory at (33°47’1.04”N 72°44’34.18”E): the concentration of green stuff in the middle of the compound is extraordinary.

  13. miles (History)

    Actually, North Korea managed a bomb program with only a five megawatt reactor… And the fear was that they would go to a 50 MW reactor…

    [Ed. note: the Yongbyon reactor is 5 MW(electric) but — for an apples to apples comparison with Arak — 20-30 MW(thermal). And, of course, it is graphite moderated.]

  14. Binh (History)

    Does anyone else think that this won’t slow down the Cheney administration’s push for war with Iran one bit given that they haven’t suspended uranium enrichment?