Bloomberg: Iran said it is aiming to install 50,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium as part of its nuclear program, a day after defying the United Nations with an announcement that the work has reached an industrial scale. By Ladane Nasseri and Marc Wolfensberger
April 10 (Bloomberg) — Iran said it is aiming to install 50,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium as part of its nuclear program, a day after defying the United Nations with an announcement that the work has reached an industrial scale.
Iran’s aim is not only “to install 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility but it has planned for 50,000 centrifuges,” the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday that Iran has begun enriching uranium on an industrial scale.
The Islamic Republic’s announcement was a challenge to the UN Security Council, which on March 24 gave Iran 60 days to suspend enrichment after the country ignored previous deadlines set by the international body. The Security Council demands responded to allegations by the U.S. and some allies that Iran is using the development of nuclear power to disguise a weapons program in contravention of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“When we say we have entered industrial-scale enrichment, there is no way back,” Aghazadeh said. “Installation of centrifuges will continue steadily until we reach a stage where all 50,000 centrifuges are launched.”
About 1,500 centrifuges spinning non-stop for a year would be needed to produce the 28 kilograms (62 pounds) of 90 percent- enriched uranium needed for a bomb, nuclear physicist David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington said in June. Ahmadinejad’s announcement yesterday didn’t include details of how much uranium Iran has enriched.
The government in Tehran today emphasized that it won’t suspend the enrichment work. “The suspension of enrichment is not acceptable either as a precondition to negotiations or as a result of such talks,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was cited as saying by state television.
The Security Council has asked for enrichment to be suspended and that should be done, a U.K. Foreign Office spokesman said today. It will be for the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to verify what actions Iran has taken according to the 60-day deadline laid down by the Security Council, the spokesman said.
The latest Iranian statement is “a bad sign,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported. He called on Iran to “seize the opportunity to open a dialogue” offered at the time of the adoption of the latest Security Council resolution, AFP said.
Germany also expressed growing “concerns” in light of Iran’s statements. “The latest announcements from Iran are a clear provocation to the West,” Ruprecht Polenz, head of the German Parliament’s foreign affairs committee said.
“The UN Security Council has unmistakably set out what the next steps are. Tehran, too, must have an interest in providing transparency to help defuse this crisis,” Polenz said in a phone interview today.
The European Union said it observed Iran’s announcement with “great concern” and that producing uranium on an industrial scale is in “direct contradiction” to the requirements of the UN Security Council and the IAEA, the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Germany holds the EU’s six- month rotating presidency.
The IAEA said Feb. 22 that Iran planned to have 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz, 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Tehran, by May. A UN official with direct knowledge of the IAEA’s Iran investigation at the time called that goal optimistic.
Russia’s government, which is building Iran’s first nuclear reactor, in the southern port city of Bushehr, said today it wasn’t aware of significant developments in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Russia is “unaware of any technological breakthrough” in Iran’s work on uranium enrichment, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement on the ministry’s Web site.
Iran’s accounts of its nuclear accomplishment are “probably exaggeration,” Heinrich Matthee, an analyst with the London- based Control Risks, said. It’s “unlikely” that Iran has 3,000 centrifuges running now, Matthee said in a telephone interview.
“If one looks at the general pattern — bureaucratic inefficiency, the quality of the program has never been top- notch,” he said “Up to 1,000 centrifuges may be working. They may work for a day or a week and then break; the quality is not high to begin with.”
Iran’s announcement that it plans 50,000 centrifuges, though it can’t be excluded at some stage in the future, is “a claim in the propaganda war,” Matthee said.
Iran denies that its nuclear program is aimed at building a bomb, saying the work is in accordance with the terms of the Non- Proliferation Treaty. Iran is a signatory to the accord, which stipulates the right to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, and encourages non-proliferation and disarmament.