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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid