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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2014

Iran scaling down plutonium production plans


TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says it’s scaling down plutonium production plans at the country’s only, partially built heavy-water reactor, an announcement seen as a gesture toward next week’s negotiations with world powers over the Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear program.

According to the announcement, the reactor at Arak in central Iran will be redesigned to make less waste plutonium than what is required for the core of a nuclear weapon.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the official IRNA news agency late on Wednesday that instead of 22 pounds as initially planned, the reactor will make less than 2.2 pounds.

“The amount of production of plutonium in Arak ... will be less than one kilogram,” Salehi said. “We are redesigning the reactor.”

The change of plans is part of a deal that Iran is negotiating with world powers to ensure that its nuclear program will not produce an atomic weapon, in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Salehi’s remarks were the first indication of production plans, although he indicated during negotiations in April that plutonium production could be limited.

Since striking an interim deal in November, Iran and the six world powers — the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany — have held several rounds of talks to try hammer out a final deal.

Under the November agreement, Tehran stopped enrichment of uranium to 20 percent — which is a possible pathway to nuclear arms — in exchange for the easing of some Western sanctions.

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