REFILE-UPDATE 1-Iran further expanding enrichment capacity - diplomats

Wed Oct 17, 2012 2:26pm EDT

Related Topics

* Iran defying Western demands to curb enrichment

* Tehran says refined uranium needed for medical reactor

* U.S. and allies suspect bid to develop nuclear bomb capability

* Added enrichment capacity may further complicate diplomacy

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Iran is believed to be further increasing its uranium enrichment capacity at its Fordow plant buried deep underground, Western diplomats say, in another sign of Tehran defying international demands to curb its disputed nuclear programme.

But they said the Islamic Republic did not yet appear to have started up the newly-installed centrifuges to boost production of material which Iran says is for reactor fuel but which can also have military uses if processed more.

"Iran continues to build up enrichment capacity," one Western official said.

A diplomat accredited to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said: "We think that they have continued installing centrifuges at Fordow. We think that their pace has continued the same as it was, which was pretty rapid."

If confirmed in the next IAEA report on Iran's atomic activities, expected in mid-November, it would suggest Iran is steadily moving towards completing instalment of centrifuges at the Fordow subterranean centrifuge site.

The work may be "near complete," the Vienna-based diplomat said, in remarks echoed by another envoy.

There was no immediate comment from Iran or the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency based in the Austrian capital.

Fordow - which Tehran only disclosed the existence of in 2009 after learning that Western spy services had detected it - is of particular concern for the United States and its allies as Iran uses it for its higher-grade enrichment.

Iran says it needs uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, compared with the level of up to 5 percent it produces at its main enrichment facility at Natanz, to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

STALLED DIPLOMACY

But it also takes Iran a significant technical step closer to the 90 percent concentration needed for bombs, explaining the West's growing concern about the Islamic state's stockpile of the material.

A U.S.-based think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), this month said Iran would currently need at least two to four months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb, and additional time to make the device itself.

Last week, Iranian officials said Tehran would negotiate on halting higher-grade enrichment if given fuel for the research reactor, in a possible attempt to show flexibility in stalled nuclear talks with world powers.

The IAEA said in its last report on Iran in late August that the country had doubled the number of centrifuges to 2,140 at Fordow since the previous report in May. More than 600 remained to be installed, the report showed.

Since then, diplomats said they thought Iran had put in place more centrifuges at the site near the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, about 130 km (80 miles) from Tehran and located deep under soil and rock for protection against any attack.

"They continue sort of unabated," one envoy said.

But they said Iran was still operating the same number of machines as it has been since early this year, nearly 700 centrifuges.

It was not clear when the new equipment would be launched or whether Iran was holding back for technical or political reasons. It is also not known whether the centrifuges which are not yet operating will be used for 5 or 20 percent enrichment, or both, the diplomats say.

Any move by Iran to increase the number of working centrifuges - and the production rate - would be swiftly condemned by its foes in the West and Israel and may further complicate diplomacy aimed at resolving the dispute.

Iran says its nuclear programme is a peaceful project to generate electricity but its refusal to limit the work and lack of transparency with U.N. inspectors have been met with increasingly tough Western sanctions targeting its oil exports.

European Union governments imposed sanctions on Tuesday against major Iranian state companies in the oil and gas industry, and strengthened restrictions on the central bank, cranking up financial pressure on Tehran.

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Comments (2)
Western governments’ hypocrisy is now obvious to us Iranians.

1. They say “Western demands to curb enrichment” meaning: total annihilation of agricultural, medical and nuclear fuel making activities after a long period of suspension!
2. “U.S. and allies suspect bid to develop nuclear bomb capability” meaning: Although IAEA is fully monitoring Iran’s activities and their own agencies are admitting no bomb making activities, they clinch on these baseless blames to defend their hostile approach and cruel sanctions which is hurting ordinary people in Iran and the rest of the world.
3.”Added enrichment capacity may further complicate diplomacy” meaning: denying Iranian’s capabilities to acquire such a sophisticated technology under NPT and neglecting the fact that it is really humiliating to apply the policy of Carrot and Stick on a nation. They believe adding sanctions are good for diplomacy but working under supervision of IAEA for your nation’s interest is not!!!
Our problems lay in the meaning of diplomacy. It’s now a fact that its meaning is totally different in West and in Iran. In Iran diplomacy means having dialog with western powers (P5+1) to gain our nations rights according to international law and avoiding double standards. In West diplomacy means providing enough incentives for lower class counties like Iran to hamper all of advanced, technological efforts especially in nuclear enrichment field to keep current world’s unjust order. They better accept the fact that the era of slavery is over and in free world every nation is entitled to gain as much as its youth can provide. The only way to resolve this clutter is accepting Iran’s right under IAEA’s NPT and engaging in its activities and by joint cooperation westerns can intensely monitor our nuclear activities. Sanctions will bring Unity! And unfortunately under the state of emergency it will destroy democracy!

Oct 18, 2012 5:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
HT38 wrote:
Where does Iran get its centrifuges from? Why is there such a deafening silence about the supplier?

Oct 20, 2012 5:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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