Energy Department announces purchase of Iran’s heavy water

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Friday it will purchase 32 tons of heavy water from Iran to meet Iran’s commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated in July 2015.

Heavy water is a crucial  building block in the development of a nuclear weapon containing a higher concentration of the hydrogen isotope deuterium; it is used to moderate the activity of neutrons to create a reaction to uranium.

To meet its obligations under the landmark Iran Nuclear Deal negotiated between the P5+1 powers (Russia, U.S., UK, France, China and Germany) in 2015, Iran is obligated to reduce its heavy water store through sale, dilution or disposal.

At a cost of $8.6 million, the heavy water expected to be purchased is not radioactive and can be used for commercial use or research.

Iran, which remains under sanctions, holds an excess 70 tons of the material and, according to Iranian nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, is currently negotiating the sale of excess heavy water.

Iran is compelled to reduce its store of heavy water to 90 tons under the terms of the JCPOA.

Although the purchase of heavy water from Iran was greeted with enthusiasm in some circles, the DOE’s announcement was blasted by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lambasted the purchase, calling it “another unprecedented concession to the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.”

In a statement later, Ryan added the purchase will “directly subsidize Iran’s nuclear program.”

Ryan was not alone:  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called the purchase a “dangerous precedent” and House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) stated the heavy water sale to the U.S. “goes well beyond what is required by the nuclear agreement.


[Reuters] [Photo courtesy]