Iran ready to double nuclear work in bunker: IAEA

Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:40pm EST
 
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran is set to sharply expand its uranium enrichment in an underground plant after installing all the centrifuges it was built for, a U.N. report said, a move likely to increase Western alarm about Tehran's nuclear course.

It also showed that Iran's stockpile of its most sensitive nuclear material - which could relatively quickly be processed further to bomb-grade uranium - had grown and was getting closer to an amount that could be sufficient for a nuclear weapon.

The latest quarterly International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran came 10 days after the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama, which raised hopes for a revival of nuclear diplomacy with Iran following speculation that Israel might attack the nuclear facilities of its arch-enemy soon.

But the U.N. watchdog's findings underlined the tough task facing world powers seeking to pressure Iran to curb atomic activity they fear is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran denies.

"The report paints the picture of Iran's continued lack of cooperation with the IAEA, and details its continued enrichment and installation of centrifuges in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions," a senior Western diplomat said.

The Islamic state has put in place the nearly 2,800 centrifuges that the Fordow enrichment site, buried deep inside a mountain, was designed for, and is poised to double the number of them operating to roughly 1,400 from 700 now, according to the confidential IAEA report.

"They can be started any day. They are ready," a senior diplomat familiar with the IAEA's investigation said.

If Iran chose to dedicate the new machines to produce higher-grade uranium, it could significantly shorten the time required for any bid to build an atomic bomb. Iran says it needs to refine uranium to make reactor fuel.   Continued...

 
EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. Chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali-Akbar Salehi makes a speech during a ceremony to take delivery of locally produced yellowcake, a uranium concentrate powder, at the UCF plant in Isfahan 414 kilometres (257 miles) south of Tehran December 5, 2010. REUTERS/HO/Fars News (IRAN)