Iran Nuclear NewsU.N. inspectors visit Iran enrichment cascades

U.N. inspectors visit Iran enrichment cascades

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Reuters: A group of U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors has visited Iran’s second network of centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the official IRNA news agency quoted an official as saying on Sunday. TEHRAN (Reuters) – A group of U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors has visited Iran’s second network of centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the official IRNA news agency quoted an official as saying on Sunday.

Despite U.N. Security Council demands that it halt nuclear fuel production work, Iran announced last month that it had started up a second group of 164 centrifuges, which spin at supersonic speeds to enrich uranium.

The networks of centrifuges are known as cascades. Iran says Natanz will eventually house tens of thousands of the machines but that it will only use them to enrich uranium to a level suitable for use in atomic power reactors and not to the much higher level needed to make atom bombs.

“They have visited the second cascade and the Isfahan uranium conversion facility,” the unnamed official told IRNA.

The inspectors who arrived in Iran on Friday will stay in the country for four days to collect information for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei’s November report to the watchdog, IRNA said.

“Their activities in Iran are based on the (nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA’s safeguards,” the official said, calling the visit a routine part of Iran’s commitment to international treaties.

Iran ended snap inspections of its nuclear facilities in February after its case was referred to the Security Council.

The United States is pushing the council to toughen a draft resolution drawn up by Britain, France and Germany for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Russia and China, both veto-holding members of the council, want extensive changes to soften and shorten the resolution.

Iran insists sanctions will not deter it and has threatened to take counter measures, such as curtailing IAEA inspections altogether, if the Security Council does take action against it.

“There is no legal ground to suspend uranium enrichment … Iran will act proportionally when the resolution is passed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a weekly news conference on Sunday.

Experts say Iran would need thousands of centrifuges spinning non-stop for months to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one atom bomb. Iran says it will install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007.

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