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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

09 May 2003

U.S. Disputes Stated Purposes of Iranian Nuclear Facilities

(Answer to question taken at May 9 State Department briefing) (420)
Following is the official answer to a question taken at the May 9
regular State Department briefing; the answer was posted later in the
(begin text)
Office of the Spokesman 
For Immediate Release 
May 9, 2003 
Taken Question from May 8, 2003 Daily Press Briefing
Iranian Nuclear Facilities: Arak and Natanz
Question: Did the Iranian government admit to having a heavy water
reactor? If so, when? Have we confirmed reports of a uranium
enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water reactor at Arak?
Answer: Iran has acknowledged both the heavy water production plant at
Arak and the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, but did so only
after their existence was disclosed to the press in August 2002 by an
Iranian opposition group.
Aside from a small IAEA-safeguarded "zero-power" research reactor
located at the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center, Iran has no known
heavy water reactor and no need for an indigenous source of heavy
water. Iran's only nuclear power reactor expected to become
operational within the next decade is the light-water reactor under
construction with Russian help at Bushehr. This raises serious
questions about Iran's intentions in constructing an industrial-scale
heavy water production plant at Arak. Heavy-water moderated reactors
are better suited for plutonium production than are light water
reactors. We believe Iran's true intent is to develop the capability
to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, using both the
plutonium route (supported ultimately by a heavy-water research
reactor) and the highly enriched uranium route (supported by a gas
centrifuge enrichment plant).
Iran has also confirmed to the IAEA that it is constructing a gas
centrifuge uranium enrichment facility near the town of Natanz.
Although Iran initially delayed the visit, IAEA Director General
ElBaradei visited the Natanz site in late February and found what
appeared to be a "sophisticated" centrifuge uranium enrichment
program. We are deeply concerned at Iran's efforts to build that
facility clandestinely, and believe there is no logical reason for
Iran to pursue uranium enrichment other than to support a weapons
capability, especially in light of Russia's pledge to provide all the
fuel for the lifetime of the Bushehr reactor. The IAEA is undertaking
a rigorous examination of Iran's nuclear activities, and we look
forward to hearing from Dr. ElBaradei at the June Board of Governors
meeting as to the results to date of that examination.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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