|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-314844 Iran-Nuclear (L-O)
TITLE=IRAN / NUCLEAR (L-O)
INTRO: The International Atomic Energy Agency says Tehran plans to build a heavy-water reactor in central Iran that some say could be part of a nuclear-weapons program. Iran says construction work on the reactor is due to start within months. Melanie Sully reports from I-A-E-A headquarters in Vienna.
TEXT: I-A-E-A spokesman, Mark Gwozdecky, says the agency is aware of Iran's intention to start building a heavy-water reactor near Arak that could produce weapons-grade plutonium.
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In 2003, Iran declared to the agency its construction at Arak of a heavy-water production plant and its planned construction of a heavy-water reactor. Iran provided preliminary design information on the reactor along with preliminary information of the facility intended to manufacture the fuel.
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The head of the I-A-E-A, Mohamed ElBaradei (PRON: el baRAHday), said in a report issued last year that his inspectors were surprised by the information given by Iran on the Arak reactor.
A design for large pieces of equipment, known as hot cells, should have been declared, but drawings supplied by Iran contained no reference to such cells. When confronted with this, Iran acknowledged that two hot cells had been foreseen, but neither the design nor detailed information was available.
Iran claims this type of reactor can be used both for medical and industrial purposes or for producing plutonium for weapons.
Western diplomats say a heavy-water reactor is a huge investment and there is no justification for such an outlay for civilian use.
The United States and other countries suspect that Iran's nuclear program is a cover for building nuclear weapons, which Tehran denies. (SIGNED)
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