Iran needs up to 15 nuclear plants: foreign minister

Sat Dec 12, 2009 11:05am EST
 
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By Raissa Kasolowsky

MANAMA (Reuters) - Iran needs up to 15 nuclear plants to generate electricity, its foreign minister said on Saturday, underlining Tehran's determination to press ahead with a program the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

Manouchehr Mottaki, addressing a security conference in Bahrain, also cast further doubt on a U.N.-drafted nuclear fuel deal meant to allay international concern about the Islamic Republic's atomic ambitions.

"First I think we could just totally abandon the whole thing or we could propose something more moderate, a kind of middle way ... Iran has done that," he said.

Iran has sought amendments to the proposed deal, under which it would transfer stocks of low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad and receive fuel in return for a medical research reactor. Tehran says it could produce the fuel itself if it is not able to obtain it from abroad.

The proposal to farm out most of Iran's LEU reserves is aimed at minimizing the risk of the country refining the material to the 80-90 percent grade suitable for a weapon.

Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude exporter, says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its gas and oil.

"We need 10 to 15 nuclear plants to generate electricity in our country," Mottaki said. Iran has one nuclear power plant, under construction by Russia.

On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he expected the international community to impose significant additional sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.   Continued...