Iran Nuclear NewsIran sets limit to what it tells atomic agency

Iran sets limit to what it tells atomic agency

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ImageNew York Times: Iran said Friday that it would keep plans for 10 new enrichment plants secret until six months before they were ready to concentrate uranium into nuclear fuel, a policy sure to heighten tensions with the West over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. The New York Times

By WILLIAM J. BROAD

ImageIran said Friday that it would keep plans for 10 new enrichment plants secret until six months before they were ready to concentrate uranium into nuclear fuel, a policy sure to heighten tensions with the West over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

Enriched uranium can fuel reactors or, with a little more concentration, atom bombs. Iran insists that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.

The declaration on Friday drove home Iran’s new stance on reducing its cooperation with atomic inspectors, which began a week ago when Iran angrily denounced a rebuke by the International Atomic Energy Agency over its once-secret enrichment plant near the holy city of Qum.

The agency’s board had called on Iran to suspend construction immediately at the site, and Tehran responded Sunday by announcing that it would build 10 new enrichment plants.

While it remained unclear when Iran could carry out such an ambitious building program or why it would need so many new plants, the announcement on Friday reopened a festering dispute over whether Iran is obliged to give advance notification when planning nuclear plants.

A senior Iranian diplomat told IRNA, the official news agency, that Iran would give the inspectors six months’ notice before the 10 new plants were operational. But the nuclear agency contends that notifications are required as soon as Iran begins planning nuclear facilities and that Iran broke the rule in the case of the Qum enrichment plant.

In 2003 Iran, like other states that accept the agency’s help in building a civilian nuclear program, agreed to a code of nuclear conduct in which it would inform the agency of new plants “as soon as the decision to construct or to authorize construction had been taken, whichever is earlier.”

But in 2007, in reprisal for United Nations sanctions, it renounced that pledge and said it was reverting to a looser earlier code. The agency ruled that Iran had no authority to renounce its agreement.

On Friday, Abolfazl Zohrehvand, a senior Iranian diplomat involved in the stalled nuclear talks with the West, told IRNA that Iran would inform the agency about the new enrichment plants “only 180 days before gas injection and entry of the radioactive substances.”

Uranium in gaseous form is injected into centrifuges, where it is enriched by rapid spinning.

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