According to the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran violated its agreements with six other nations by overstepping its holding capacity for heavy water. The IAEA reported that Iran had exceeded its allowed stockpile of heavy water, 143.3 tons, by .10 tons. This occurred the same day that Iran threatened the U. S. to stick to its end of the Iran Nuclear Deal, a deal president-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly bashed.
What is Heavy Water?
Heavy water is a naturally occurring variation of normal water, but with a different isotope of hydrogen attached to the central oxygen atom. This isotope is called deuterium, or Hydrogen-2. It is a stable isotope and not radioactive.
Heavy water is used as a moderator in some nuclear reactors (approx. 5%), and essentially slows down free-floating neutrons, placing them in an excited state, and allowing them to reconnect with other atoms. This is essential for the production of nuclear energy, as well as one of the best and cheapest ways to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
What are the Effects of Iran Exceeding its Allowed Stockpile?
Iran has been very transparent about the recent overage it has experienced, stating that it would be sending off 5.5 metric tons to an unspecified foreign nation, as well as soliciting a sale of its heavy water to Russia and the United States.
President Barack Obama recently has offered to buy 32 metric tons off of Iran. This decision by the White House has resulted in a heated Congressional debate in our nation’s capitol. Republican members of Congress, along with some like-minded Democratic members, slammed the decision to purchase the heavy water from Iran during discussion of a bill on United States Spending on Energy and Water.
Tom Cotton, a Republican Senator from Arkansas has put forth and amendment to the current Water and Energy bill that would restrict the Executive branch’s recent decision. Senator Cotton made clear his objections to the deal, saying”Iran has an obligation to reduce its heavy water stocks [and] The United States has no obligation to help them. We certainly have no obligation to buy their heavy water, and I don’t think the United States taxpayers should subsidize their nuclear program.”
Above: German Built Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, located in the Bushehr region in Iran.
He was backed by Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Mike Pompeo, and others. Several members of the Democratic party expressed concern over the transaction, but did not feel it was the time to bring up objections during the discussion of an Energy and Water Spending Bill.
Sen. Bob Cardin (D-MD) said, “I think this is a subject matter that should be considered. My complaint is that it shouldn’t be on this bill. It should be one that has had the thoughtful process of our committee input, and it hasn’t had that.”
Voting is not yet scheduled for the bill.