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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid