Defiant Iran Approves 10 New Enrichment Sites

The Iranian government approved a plan on Sunday to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities, a dramatic expansion in defiance of UN demands it halt the programme. The decision comes only two days after the
defiant iran approves 10 new enrichment sites -...
PTI November 30, 2009 11:15 IST

The Iranian government approved a plan on Sunday to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities, a dramatic expansion in defiance of UN demands it halt the programme.

The decision comes only two days after the UN nuclear watchdog agency censured Iran, demanding it immediately stop building a newly revealed enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom and freeze all uranium enrichment activities.

The rebuke infuriated Iran, with lawmakers threatening to consider pulling the country out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in retaliation.

The enrichment announcement is likely to stoke already high tensions between Iran and the West over its controversial nuclear activities. The US and its allies have hinted of new UN sanctions if Tehran remains defiant.

A Cabinet meeting headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran to begin building five uranium enrichment sites that have already been studied and propose five other locations for future construction within two months, the state news agency IRNA reported.

The new sites are to be on the same scale of Iran's only other industrial-scale enrichment plant currently in operation, near the town of Natanz in central Iran. About 8,600 centrifuges have been set up in Natanz, but only about 4,000 are actively enriching uranium, according to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The facility will eventually house 54,000 centrifuges.

In Vienna, spokeswoman Gillian Tudor said IAEA would have no comment on Tehran's announcement.

The newly revealed enrichment site, known as Fordo, is a smaller scale site that will house 3,000 centrifuges. Its discovery earlier this year brought accusations that Iran was developing the site secretly, a claim Tehran denies.

In the enrichment process, uranium gas is spun in centrifuges to purify it. Enriched to a low degree, the result is fuel for a nuclear reactor — but highly enriched uranium can be used to build a warhead. The US and its allies accuse Iran of secretly seeking to develop a bomb, a claim denied by Iran, which says it seeks only to generate electricity.

Iran aims to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear power plants during in the next 20 years. IRNA said the new plants are needed to produce enough fuel for its future power plants. AP

 
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