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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Jul 17th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Iran: new strides in uranium enrichment
Iran: new strides in uranium enrichment PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer   
Friday, 29 August 2008

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TEHRAN, Iran - Iran has increased the number of operating centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant to 4,000, a top official said Friday, pushing ahead with the nuclear program despite threats of new U.N. sanctions.

The number was up from the 3,000 centrifuges that Iran announced in November that it was operating at its plant in the central city of Natanz. Still, it is well below the 6,000 it said last year it would operate by summer 2008, suggesting the program may be behind schedule.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, who visited Natanz last week, said Friday that Iran was preparing to install even more centrifuges, though he did not offer a timeframe.

"Right now, nearly 4,000 centrifuges are operating at Natanz," Attar told the state news agency IRNA. "Currently, 3,000 other centrifuges are being installed."

The U.N. has already imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to freeze its enrichment program, which can be used to produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material needed for a nuclear warhead.

In the process, uranium gas is spun in a series of centrifuges known as "cascades" to purify it. Lower levels of enrichment produce reactor fuel — which Iran says is the sole purpose of the program — but higher grades can build a weapon.

The United States and its allies are likely to press the U.N. later this year for a new round of sanctions after Iran did not accept a package of economic and technological incentives in return for suspending enrichment. But they could face strong resistance from Russia after this month's crisis in Georgia deeply damaged ties between Washington and Moscow.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested his country's cooperation with the West on the Iran issue could be hurt by the Georgia tensions.

Asked if Moscow might stop cooperation if it comes under increased pressure over Georgia, he told CNN that Russia is "working very consistently and diligently with its partners" on the Iran issue.

But "if nobody wants to talk with us on these issues and cooperation with Russia is not needed, then for God's sake, do it yourselves," he said in the interview aired Thursday.

Russia, which has close ties to Tehran, has long been reluctant to impose harsh sanctions — though it backed the past three rounds of limited financial sanctions.

The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon, a claim Iran denies. Tehran insists it has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to develop reactor fuel using enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, declined to comment on the latest Iranian announcement.

By reaching 4,000 centrifuges, the program is moving into an industrial-scale program that could churn out enough enriched material for dozens of nuclear weapons.

Experts, however, say Iran would need to change the way the centrifuges are operating to enrich uranium to high, weapons-grade levels, something that would be difficult since the Natanz facility is under IAEA video surveillance.

Last month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran possesses 6,000 centrifuges, though he did not specify how many were operating. He also suggested that negotiations with the U.N. had raised a possible compromise whereby the enrichment program could continue as long as it was not expanded beyond 6,000 centrifuges. However, the IAEA and the countries involved in the nuclear issue — the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have not shown any public sign that such a compromise was on the table.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented Iran with the incentives offer in June. Iran finally sent a reply in August, but the U.S. and its allies said the response did not directly address the offer and considered it a rejection.

The workhorse of Iran's enrichment program is the P-1 centrifuge, which is run in cascades of 164 machines. But Iranian officials confirmed in February that they had started using the IR-2 centrifuge, which can churn out enriched uranium at more than double the rate.

Iran says it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that will ultimately involve 54,000 centrifuges.

 

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Iran: new strides in uranium enrichment

29/08/2008

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran is now operating 4,000 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant, a top official said Friday, moving the country's controversial nuclear program further out of the experimental stage onto an industrial level.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheikh Attar told the official IRNA news agency following his Aug. 19 visit that Iran was also preparing to install further centrifuges at the enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran.

"Right now, nearly 4,000 centrifuges are operating at Natanz enrichment plant," Attar said. "Currently, 3,000 other centrifuges are being installed."

Uranium is enriched into nuclear fuel by the centrifuges to power operate nuclear energy plants. The same process, however, can be used to produce the fuel for nuclear weapons.

For this reason, the United States and its allies have been demanding a halt to Iran's uranium enrichment, something Tehran has repeatedly refused to do.

A total of 3,000 centrifuges is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage.

By reaching 4,000, the program is moving into an industrial-scale program that could churn out enough enriched material for dozens of nuclear weapons.

Experts, however, say Iran would need to change the way centrifuges are operating to actually produce weapons-grade uranium, something that would be difficult since the Natanz facility is under video surveillance by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA.

Negotiations are underway with five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program or at least maintain it at the current level in exchange for a package of incentives.

Last month, however, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated that negotiations had come up with a deal whereby the enrichment program could continue as long as it was not expanded beyond 6,000 centrifuges.

A report by the U.N.'s nuclear monitoring agency that was delivered to the U.N. Security Council in May said Iran had 3,500 centrifuges, though a senior U.N. official said at the time that Iran's goal of 6,000 machines running by the summer was "pretty much plausible."

In the enrichment process, uranium gas is pumped into a series of centrifuges called "cascades." The gas is spun at supersonic speeds to remove impurities. Enriching at a low level produces nuclear fuel, but at a higher level it can produce the material for a warhead.

The workhorse of Iran's enrichment program is the P-1 centrifuge, which is run in cascades of 164 machines. But Iranian officials confirmed in February that they had started using the IR-2 centrifuge, which can churn out enriched uranium at more than double the rate.

Iran says it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that will ultimately involve 54,000 centrifuges.

http://www.asharqalawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=13880



 
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