AFP: Iran now has more than 5,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in operation, as it pushes ahead with its controversial nuclear programme, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation chief said on Wednesday.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran now has more than 5,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in operation, as it pushes ahead with its controversial nuclear programme, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation chief said on Wednesday.
"At this stage, more than 5,000 centrifuges are in operation," said Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
The figure corresponds to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which said last week that the Islamic republic has 3,820 centrifuges in operation and another 2,132 being installed or tested.
Iran has stockpiled approximately 630 kilograms (1,389 pounds) of low-enriched uranium or LEU, from the 3,800 centrifuges currently in operation, according to the IAEA.
Estimates vary but the UN watchdog has said that about 1,700 kilograms of LEU would be needed for conversion into high-enriched uranium (HEU) for use in an atom bomb, although other estimates put the figure as low as 700 kilograms.
At the end of August, Iran said it was operating about 4,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges and installing several thousand more.
Iran is already under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to freeze enrichment, as Western powers led by the United States suspect its nuclear programme is a cover for making the bomb.
Under the enrichment process being carried out at Natanz, a huge underground complex in central Iran, low-grade uranium is refined into fuel that can power reactors, or at highly enriched levels, into weapons-grade material.
Iran, a leading OPEC oil producer, denies seeking nuclear weapons and insists its programme is designed to provide energy for its growing population when its reserves of fossil fuels run out.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of freezing enrichment and that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to make its own nuclear fuel.