An explosion at Iran’s heavy-water reactor will delay the construction of the controversial nuclear plant at Arak in western Iran, according to Israeli website Debkafile, which has close contacts with Mossad and other intelligence services in the Jewish state.
The Arak reactor, known as IR-40 and designed with a capacity of 40 megawatts, is the cause of deep concern in Israel because it is capable of producing plutonium for use in nuclear bombs as an alternative to enriched uranium.
According to Debkafile, Tehran did its utmost to conceal the mystery blast last week. The cause of the explosion and the extent of the damage have not been established.
According to the information obtained by Debkafile sources, the blast occurred inside the reactor building when preparations were under way for a test with artificial fuel and light water. The site of the explosion may have been the large coolant containers and the pressure gauges attached to the reactor core.
The incident will delay for a second time the reactor’s first test with real fuel. Tehran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency in August of a previous holdup.
The reactor is of growing concern to the West as it would be essentially invulnerable to military attack because bombing it would risk a catastrophic release of radioactivity.
Israel’s last chief of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, who piloted one of the F-16As that cratered Iraq’s Osirak heavy-water reactor in 1981 before it was due to become operational, said: “Whoever considers attacking an active reactor is willing to invite another Chernobyl, and no one wants to do that.”
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
Tehran did its utmost to conceal the mystery blast which last week struck the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak in western Iran. It is revealed here for the first time by debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. The explosion, whether accidental or not, will delay for a second time the reactor’s first test with real fuel. Tehran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency in August of a previous holdup.
The cause of the blast and the extent of the damage it caused have not yet been established. According to the partial information initially reaching our sources, it occurred inside the reactor building when preparations were underway for a test scheduled for this month with artificial fuel and light water. The site of the explosion may have been the large coolant containers and the pressure gauges attached to the reactor’s core.
Iranian Atomic Council experts and intelligence agents are testing four possible causes of the explosion:
2. A virus planted in the computers that control the systems administering the test.
3. An error in engineering calculations in the design of the coolant containers which underestimated their strength for standing up to the required level of pressure.
4. The deliberate sale to Iran of inferior steel materials that were not strong enough to withstand such pressure.
Last August, Iran informed the nuclear watchdog that the test with real fuel would be the final one before the reactor entered its running-in stage. The damage caused by the explosion will have postponed that stage indefinitely.
The Arak reactor, known as IR-40 and designed for a capacity of 40 megawatt, is the cause of deep concern in Israel because it is capable of producing plutonium for use in nuclear bombs as an alternative to enriched uranium.
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