Defiant Iran plans to speed up nuclear fuel work

Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:12pm EST
 
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (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.

The United States said on Thursday that installation of new Iranian centrifuges would be a "provocative step".

"This does not come as a surprise," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington. He said the introduction of these machines would result in Iran's further isolation by the international community.

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.

"It is certainly a provocation to increase any enrichment capacity at all," a senior Western diplomat said.   Continued...

 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 350 km (217 miles) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008. REUTERS/Presidential official website/Handout