News / Middle East

    Defiant Iran Plans to Speed Nuclear Fuel Work

    FILE - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, visits Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008.
    FILE - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, visits Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008.
    Reuters
    Iran has announced plans to install and operate advanced uranium-enrichment machines in what would be a technological leap allowing it to significantly speed up activity the West fears could be put to developing a nuclear weapon.
     
    In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran said it would introduce new centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz, according to an IAEA communication to member states seen by Reuters.
     
    The defiant move will increase concerns in the West and Israel about Iran's nuclear ambitions, which Tehran says are entirely peaceful, and may further complicate efforts by big powers to negotiate curbs on its enrichment program.
     
    Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, or provide material for bombs if refined to a high degree, which the West suspects is Tehran's underlying purpose.
     
    A new generation centrifuge could, if successfully deployed, refine uranium several times faster than the model Iran now has.
     
    Analysts say U.N. sanctions have limited Iran's access abroad to special steel and other components needed to produce sophisticated enrichment machines in larger numbers. Iran says it is able to manufacture them domestically.
     
    Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses, but their introduction for full-scale production has been dogged by delays and technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say.
     
    International response

    Iran's announcement coincides with wrangling between Tehran and six world powers over when and where to meet next, delaying a resumption of talks aimed at reaching a negotiated deal and avert a new Middle East war.
     
    Iran and the so-called P5+1 contact group — the United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany — last held negotiations in June, but talks broke apart with neither side yielding on its demands.
     
    European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton at meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, Luxembourg, Oct. 15, 2012.European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton at meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, Luxembourg, Oct. 15, 2012.
    x
    European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton at meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, Luxembourg, Oct. 15, 2012.
    European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton at meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, Luxembourg, Oct. 15, 2012.
    European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who handles contacts with Iran on behalf of the big powers, said in Brussels on Thursday that she was "confident there will be a meeting soon," without elaborating.
     
    "We've been saying to the Iranians that we want to propose dates and venues in order that we can get the discussions moving as soon as possible," she said.
     
    On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Iran's installation of the advanced enrichment machines would be a "provocative step" in further violation of United Nations resolutions against Tehran's nuclear program.

    "This does not come as a surprise," Carney told reporters, adding that the introduction of new centrifuges would result in Iran's further isolation by the international community.



    The United Nations Security Council has demanded in multiple resolutions that Iran suspend all enrichment-related activities and allow U.N. inspectors to access its nuclear facilities.
     
    An IAEA team visited Iran two weeks ago in a bid to reach a deal with Iranian officials on a structured approach for resolving questions about possible military dimensions of the country's nuclear program.
     
    The chief IAEA inspector, Herman Nackaerts, said the "intensive discussions" did not produce an agreement. But he said another round of talks will take place February 12 in Tehran.
     
    "We along with the other U.N. Security Council members have called upon the Iranians to freeze enrichment work during negotiations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
     
    Western states have intensified the sanctions pressure on Iran over the past year, targeting its lifeline oil sector. This has inflicted increasing damage to Iran's economy but its clerical leadership is showing no sign of backing down.
     
    Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, has hinted at possible military action against Iran if sanctions and diplomacy fail to resolve the nuclear stand-off.
     
    Signaling impatience, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said: "While the world continues to talk about setting a time and place for the next meeting with Iran, Tehran continues to race toward building a nuclear bomb."
     
    "It is certainly a provocation to increase any enrichment capacity at all," a senior Western diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.
     
    Technical details unclear

    It was not clear how many of the upgraded centrifuges Iran aimed to put in place at Natanz, which is designed for tens of thousands of machines, but the wording of the IAEA's note implied it could be up to roughly 3,000.
     
    Iran asserts a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and has repeatedly refused to halt the work, a stance underlined anew by its new centrifuge plans. Centrifuges spin at supersonic speed to increase the ratio of uranium's fissile isotope.
     
    Iran said it would use the new model at a unit in Natanz, where it is now refining uranium to a fissile concentration of up to five percent, according to the IAEA's communication.
     
    The IAEA "received a letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) dated January 23 informing the Agency that 'centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22' at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz," it said.
     
    The IAEA said it had asked Iran, in a letter earlier this week, to provide technical and other information about the plans. A unit can house more than 3,000 centrifuges.
     
    About 10,400 IR-1 centrifuges were installed at Natanz as of late last year, an IAEA report said in November, but diplomats in the Austrian capital said they expected a jump in that figure in the next update from the U.N. agency due around Feb. 22.
     
    The nuclear watchdog, whose mission it is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, regularly inspects Natanz and other, declared Iranian nuclear sites.
     
    Nuclear expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank said that employing more efficient centrifuges at Natanz could be "a most unfortunate game changer," depending on how many there were.
     
    "Using the IR-2m in large numbers would enable Iran to enrich uranium much faster," Fitzpatrick said.
     
    Iran says it refines uranium to power a planned network of nuclear energy plants. But just one of these plants would take many years to complete, raising many questions abroad about the motivations of a major oil and gas producer speeding up its accumulation of enriched uranium and, since early 2010, refining to a level beyond the five percent suitable for civilian energy.
     
    The part of Iran's enrichment work that most worries Western diplomats — to a fissile purity of 20 percent — is carried out at the Fordow underground facility near the town of Qom.
     
    This higher level of enrichment represents a significant step closer to weapons-grade uranium. Iran says it needs 20 percent uranium to fuel a medical research reactor in Tehran. So far, all the centrifuges deployed there are the old model.

    You May Like

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: HM from: Saudi Arabia
    February 01, 2013 12:04 PM
    yeah, Turkey, its about time someone told the repulsive Iranians where to get off...

    by: Burçak from: Turkey
    February 01, 2013 10:48 AM
    excuse me mister Iranian Anonymous... we sanctioned you because only we know what a bunch of scumbags you really are... only we really know of your treachery and duplicity and lechery. you are disintegrating like a decomposed corpse and you stink the whole region.

    by: Insam Sultan from: Turkey
    January 31, 2013 9:12 PM
    where is Obamba??? cuddling the putrid Muslim Brotherhood???
    In Response

    by: Darth Vader
    February 02, 2013 5:30 AM
    The Grammar is not strong in this one!
    In Response

    by: Antitheist from: Hmm
    February 01, 2013 4:56 AM
    I don't think if that's any of your business? After all, you sanctioned us and are bothering us constantly! We might as well get the nuclear bombs and use them if we feel like it!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora