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Iran’s Heavy Water Production Plant Opens

In what can be seen as a further negative response to demands that Iran cease uranium enrichment activities, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in a Saturday ceremony officially opening Iran’s first heavy water production plant in Khondab, near the Arak heavy water reactor currently under construction and reportedly due to be operational in less than three years.

One source from within Iran noted that the facility had actually been operational for over a month, indicating that Ahmadinejad’s ceremony was specifically timed to take place during Exploitation Week for international consumption.

Said Ahmadinejad, “We tell the Western countries not to cause trouble for themselves because Iranian people are determined to make progress and acquire technology.” He added that Iran is “not a threat to anybody, even the Zionist regime,” a statement that can only be taken seriously by those who refuse to acknowledge Iran’s material support for Hizballah, founded and guided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps over twenty years ago.

Iran remains undeterred by nations utilizing a UN vehicle to influence their nuclear operations. If the Arak heavy water reactor comes online when expected, Iran will be producing plutonium for nuclear weapons unhindered in less time than has expired since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The advantage that a heavy water reactor provides – utilizing the heavy water produced by the Khondab site - is the ability to use raw uranium ore rather than enriched uranium as fuel, completely circumventing the enrichment process Iran is now perfecting. One of the valuable byproducts of the spent fuel is plutonium. By weight, it takes little more than 15% of the weight of a uranium bomb to produce the same nuclear explosive results using plutonium. This makes a plutonium weapon far easier to deliver via missile, which Iran is also developing at a sprinter’s pace with North Korean assistance.

Before Ahmadinejad’s ceremonial opening of the heavy water production plant, Ayatollah Hojatoleslam Khatami, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, during Friday prayers in Tehran “called on Russia and China, the two veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, not to fall [into the] trap of the US.” While they have been largely recognized as ‘on board’ in calling for Iran’s cessation of uranium enrichment, whether Russia and/or China will actually vote for meaningful sanctions to be put on Iran is in doubt.

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami warned in a Tokyo speech that the West is “pouring gasoline over a fire,” and reiterated that Iran simply wants to acquire nuclear technology to generate electricity for its citizens. With much controversy, Khatami has been issued a visa to visit and speak in the United States in September at the Washington National Cathedral.

With the ongoing and unhindered Iranian nuclear program advancing along apace and Iran’s repeated claims of only seeking peaceful nuclear power, it must be recognized that there is little physical distinction between a civilian and a military nuclear program. As the research director at the Arms Control Association, Wade Boese, put it, “If you have a civilian nuclear program with enrichment and reprocessing facilities, you can have a military program. The civilian versus military is kind of what comes out at the end — bombs or energy.”

It is not a technical matter. It comes down to a matter of human emotion: Trust.

Do those in the West trust that the world’s premiere state sponsor of terrorism seeks nuclear power, whether through light water reactors, heavy water reactors or both?