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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora