Sunday, November 29, 2009
Iran to Build More Nuclear Plants
Source: Al Jazeera
Iran's government has ordered its atomic energy organization to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants, state media has reported.
Irna, Iran's state news agency, said on Sunday that construction of five plants whose locations had already been decided would start within the next two months, while suitable locations would be found for the other five.
The announcement came after a cabinet meeting chaired by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president.
Ahmadinejad said that in order to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity, Iran would need 500,000 centrifuges of the current model being used in Natanz, Iran's largest nuclear enrichment plant.
"We should reach a position where we can produce from 250-300 tones of nuclear fuel a year. To do this we must employ new centrifuges with a higher speed," Ahmadinejad said.
'Response to resolution'
The decision comes only days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, censured Iran over its nuclear program and called on Tehran to halt the construction of a newly revealed enrichment facility near the city of Qom.
A senior US official said on Sunday that "if carried out [the plant construction] would constitute yet another violation of Iran's continuing obligation of suspension of all enrichment-related activities.
"There remains a fleeting opportunity for Iran to engage with the international community, if only it would make that choice," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Obama administration has not yet released a formal response.
Alireza Ronaghi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Iran, said the latest announcement was a very clear reaction to the IAEA resolution.
"The head of Iran's atomic organization said that Iran didn't have any plans to have any more nuclear enrichment facilities, but the resolution forced them to make this decision.
"He also said that the new enrichment facilities will ... be built in the mountains - safe from possible strikes by air, or any other kind of threat.
"Right now I don't think that ratcheting up the rhetoric against Iran will help. Both Iran and the international community are moving towards a place where there will be no more space left for reconciliation," Ronaghi said.
Iranian MPs responded angrily to the resolution by demanding that Ahmadinejad's government reduce ties with the IAEA.
"We consider the behavior of the IAEA to be that of double standards and political. We want it to give up this double standard which has tarnished its reputation," the MPs said in a statement on Friday.
Western powers, including the US, accuse Iran of covertly seeking to develop atomic weapons. They demand that Iran accept a UN brokered offer that would delay Iran's ability to make a nuclear weapon as well as engage in broader talks with the ultimate goal of persuading it to stop its enrichment program.
Iran has amassed about 1,500 kilogram’s (3,300 pounds) of low-enriched
uranium at Natanz but Tehran insists it is for civilian purposes.
The UN offer aims to convince Iran to hand over more than 1,200 kilogram’s (2,600 pounds), more than the commonly accepted amount needed to produce weapons-grade material.
Iran has rejected the UN terms for the plan.
The decision to build more enrichment plants will aggravate tensions between the Islamic Republic and major powers seeking a diplomatic solution to the long-running dispute over Iranian nuclear work.