Reuters: Iran announced on Monday it had begun the “industrial stage” of nuclear fuel production, in a fresh snub to the U.N. Security Council which has demanded Tehran halt such work. By Parisa Hafezi
NATANZ, Iran (Reuters) – Iran announced on Monday it had begun the “industrial stage” of nuclear fuel production, in a fresh snub to the U.N. Security Council which has demanded Tehran halt such work.
“Today we celebrate the entry of the nuclear program to the industrial stage,” Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation told a gathering at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran.
Western nations, led by the United States, suspect Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Iran says it will only be used to generate electricity.
“Now, by entering into mass production of (uranium enrichment) centrifuges and … launching industrial-scale enrichment, another step was taken for the development of Islamic Iran and years of efforts are bearing fruit,” he said.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due to speak later.
Iran, which according to diplomats has set up almost 1,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz, has said it plans to install 3,000 there as the first stage towards “industrial-scale” nuclear fuel production.
With 3,000 machines, Iran could make enough material for a bomb in one year, if it wanted, Western experts say.
To mark the celebration, state television broadcast programming on how enrichment is carried out and detailed how many nuclear plants countries like the United States and France possessed.
It said atomic progress was a source of “national pride of the highest degree”.
Iran has rejected U.N. demands that it halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make bomb-grade material or nuclear reactor fuel.
The U.N. Security Council has passed two sanctions resolutions on Iran since December after talks to end the row collapsed last year. Iran says it is open to fresh negotiations but will not halt enrichment as a precondition to talks.
“We are ready to negotiate and reach an agreement with Western countries in order to remove their worries about nuclear Iran without putting an end to our scientific development,” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said on Monday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, says it has gaps in its knowledge about Iran’s plans that must be filled before it can say they are peaceful.
The IAEA is pushing Tehran to agree to let it install cameras in the underground section of Natanz to monitor Iran’s work. Iran says such intrusive surveillance goes beyond its basic safeguards commitment to the IAEA. Talks continue.