Iran says it has begun upgrading uranium centrifuges

Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:24am EST
 
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By Yeganeh Torbati

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday it had started installing a new generation of machines for enriching uranium, an announcement likely to annoy the West and complicate efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute over its nuclear program.

It came on the day the U.N. nuclear watchdog began talks in Tehran to try to advance a long-stalled investigation into suspected military dimensions of the program.

Iran had already told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it planned to introduce new IR2-m centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz - a step that could significantly speed up its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

"From last month the installation of the new generation of these machines started," Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

"We have produced the machines as planned and we are carrying out the installation gradually ... to complete the tests."

One diplomat accredited to the Vienna-based IAEA, which regularly monitors Iranian nuclear sites including the one at Natanz, said he was surprised by the Iranian announcement.

"My understanding until (Abbasi-Davani's statement) was that they hadn't started installation," the envoy said.

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, or, if refined to a high degree, provide material for bombs, which the West suspects is Tehran's real purpose - something Iran strenuously denies.   Continued...

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