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Iran nuke official denies key reactor dismantled

A general view of the heavy water nuclear facility at Arak, Jan. 15, 2011.

Getty

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's deputy nuclear chief denying Tuesday a report that technicians had dismantled the core of the country's nearly finished heavy water reactor and filled it with concrete as part of Tehran's obligations under the nuclear deal with the West.

Ali Asghar Zarean, in remarks to state TV Tuesday, dismissed the report by the Fars news agency from the previous day. He said Iran would sign an agreement with China to modify the Arak reactor, a deal that is expected next week.

Under the nuclear agreement, Iran must redesign the Arak reactor so it can't produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reported in July that the nuclear deal called for the Arak reactor -- which could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium -- to be converted, with its core removed.

Zarean said once modifications are done and Arak goes online, Iran hopes to export excess heavy water produced there to the U.S. through a third country, for uses in research.

The State Department said Monday that it was aware of the reports but could not independently confirm that the core had been removed.

"Once the IAEA confirms that this step has been done, this will eliminate completely the plutonium pathway to enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon," State Department Spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby said. "We will leave it to the IAEA to make a final confirmation of all the steps that Iran has committed to take to reach Implementation Day, including the steps on the Arak reactor. We believe that Iran continues to move forward on all of those steps."