By Ali Kushki  

Iran, China sign nuclear plant redesign contract 

April 23, 2017 - 21:1

TEHRAN – Iranian and Chinese firms signed the first commercial contract on Sunday in Vienna to redesign the Arak heavy water reactor as part of the 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program. 

The fate of the Arak reactor was a running theme of nearly two years of negotiations between Iran and United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and England, which resulted in the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in reward for limits on its nuclear program, of which the West was skeptical. 

The contract was signed in Iran's representative office in Vienna between the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and Chinese companies nearly two weeks after the sides finalized a draft deal in Beijing. 

“The signing of the agreement will create favorable conditions for the start-up of renovation work in real sense,” Lu Kang, a spokesman with China’s Foreign Ministry, said days before the Vienna contract. 

China and the U.S. are joint heads of a working group assigned by the nuclear deal to redesign the reactor based on an agreed conceptual design, using fuel enriched up to 3.67 percent, so that it will not produce weapons grade plutonium.

The redesign mechanism was agreed upon in a separate document on Nov. 13, 17 and 18 by the foreign ministers of the parties to the deal. 

Iran denies ever having considered producing plutonium to that level to produce nuclear weapons, saying the 40-megawatt plant is aimed at producing isotopes for medical and industrial purposes. 

Under the redesign deal, the Chinese side will make sure if the conceptual redesigning already offered by Iranian technicians meets international safety measures and participate in the construction of the reactor with the technical support of the U.S.

The agreement put an end to months of negotiations between China and Iran over the project. 

Earlier in January, Tehran accused Beijing of acting opportunistically as it was demanding too much for the renovation, what it said was much beyond “international standards.”  

Last week, Alireza Kamalvandi, a spokesman with Iran’s nuclear organization, said the contract took into account Iran’s considerations.  

The redesign accord will come just days before the 7th meeting of the Joint Commission of the nuclear deal in Vienna on April 25, a mechanism to address issues of mutual concern. 

Also, the bargain comes days after Tehran and Washington traded barbs over the deal. 

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed that Tehran is keeping its ends of the accord, followed by President Donald Trump who doubled down on the administration's tough rhetoric on Iran, claiming that Tehran isn't "not living up to the spirit of the agreement". 

Responding to the salvo, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Trump's claim Tehran was "not living up to the spirit" of the nuclear deal, saying Washington was flouting the accord.

"We'll see if US prepared to live up to letter of #JCPOA (nuclear deal) let alone spirit," Zarif tweeted. 

Soon, Trump must decide whether to extend executive order waivers the Obama administration used to suspend some of the non-nuclear sanctions imposed on Iran and how scrupulously to hold Iran to account for infractions of the JCPOA. 

The test of that will come on May 19, when Trump must decide whether to extend executive waivers that the Obama administration used to suspend some sanctions.”


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