European nations considering offering Iran light-water nuclear reactor

Key European nations are considering adding a light-water reactor to a package of incentives meant to persuade Tehran to give up its uranium enrichment program.

Senior diplomats and EU government officials said Tuesday that the tentative plans were being discussed among France, Britain and Germany as part of a possible package to be presented Friday to senior representatives of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members at a meeting in London. All spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the information.

Those who spoke to The Associated Press on the possible offer emphasized that it was tentative, complex and depended on demonstrated good nuclear behavior on the part of Iran over a protracted time.

"It's much more complicated than simply saying the EU is going to offer light water reactors" to Iran said one European government official, declining to go into further details.

A French official suggested all depended on Iran's readiness to discuss details in new negotiations between the Europeans and Tehran and that it could take years for any such facility to be built, depending on Iran's nuclear record from the time any offer was made.

"We are not going to offer them a finished reactor," he told the AP. "For the moment, one can only identify large general categories (of cooperation) and only if they say that they are interested ... can we start to discuss the details with them," he said. "Otherwise, we are putting the cart before the horse."

A light-water reactor is considered less likely to be misused for nuclear proliferation than the heavy-water facility Iran is currently building in the central city of Arak, which once completed by early 2009 will produce plutonium waste.

Still, light-water reactors are also not proliferation-proof because they use enriched uranium as fuel. While uranium enriched to low levels cannot be used in a weapons programs, it can be processed relatively easily to high "weapons-grade" material, for use as the fissile core of nuclear warheads, reports AP.