Iran Nuclear NewsIran boasts hundreds of new centrifuges: report

Iran boasts hundreds of new centrifuges: report

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AFP: Iran has started operating hundreds of new uranium-enriching centrifuges at its main nuclear plant, the official IRNA news agency said on Friday, confirming Tehran is expanding its contested atomic drive. TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran has started operating hundreds of new uranium-enriching centrifuges at its main nuclear plant, the official IRNA news agency said on Friday, confirming Tehran is expanding its contested atomic drive.

Iran is now operating 492 new centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, the agency quoted an informed source as saying, in defiance of UN calls to freeze the process which the West fears could be used to make the bomb.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Tuesday that Iran was working to install 6,000 more centrifuges at an underground hall in the plant but gave not figures on how many of the new centrifuges were operational.

The IRNA report was the first time an official source has given numbers to go with the progress.

According to the UN nuclear watchdog, Iran has already installed around 3,000 of the centrifuges at the uranium enrichment plant in central Iran and the 492 new machines are part of a second series of installations.

“Three cascades of 164 centrifuges from the second series of 3,000 centrifuges are operational in Natanz,” the source, who was not named, told the agency.

The source added that the new centrifuges were of the original P1 type and not the faster models that Iran has been testing at an above-ground research facility at the plant.

This new generation of machines are Iran’s version of the more efficient P2 centrifuges — the IR-2 — which officials say can enrich uranium with five times the output capacity of the standard P1s.

Ahmadinejad’s announcement on Tuesday came as Iran marked its “national day of nuclear technology” on the second anniversary of its first production of uranium sufficiently enriched to make atomic fuel.

It provoked an angry international reaction with Western countries warning Tehran faces further sanctions if it continues to expand its nuclear drive.

The West fears Iran could use enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon, and Tehran’s refusal to suspend the process has been punished with three sets of UN Security Council sanctions and US pressure on its banking system.

But Iran insists that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and solely aimed at generating energy for a growing population whose supply of fossil fuels will eventually run out.

Some diplomats have said that Iran has experienced difficulties in utilising its existing centrifuges to full capacity.

But the deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Saeedi, told IRNA on Friday that “there are no technical problems regarding the development of centrifuges.”

Despite the international alarm about the expansion of Iran’s nuclear drive, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed scepticism about the latest nuclear announcements from Tehran.

“I can’t substantiate the claims. There are always multiple claims coming out of Iran about progress on this, progress on that. I don’t think the underlying situation has changed,” Rice said on Tuesday.

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