Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Iran Confirms Resumption of Nuclear Fuel Work

Parisa Hafezi, Reuters:
Tehran on Tuesday confirmed it had restarted work on uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could be used to build nuclear weapons, but said it would take some time to crank up to industrial-scale production. READ MORE

Iran says it needs to make enriched uranium in an underground nuclear facility near the central town of Natanz in order to run power stations.

"The order to resume uranium enrichment has been issued and, in accordance with that, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation has restarted the process," deputy nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi told reporters.

Iran's parliament passed a law in November that Iran should resume making atomic fuel if its case was referred to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear programme. Tehran was reported to the world body earlier this month.

However, Vaeedi said Iran would not be able to reach industrial-scale production of atomic fuel quickly.

"We need some time to reach that level with all centrifuges because of the 2 1/2 year suspension. However, the preliminary phases have been launched," he said. Centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning it at supersonic speed.

Diplomats said in September that Iran could have serious difficulties in enriching uranium on an industrial scale, pumping uranium hexafluoride gas of a quality so poor into the centrifuges that it could damage them.

They also doubted Iran's technical ability to get centrifuges to work in cascades.

Vaeedi said delayed talks with Moscow, seeking a compromise to the nuclear dispute, would take place in Russia on February 20.

Russia has suggested it can break the diplomatic impasse by enriching uranium on Tehran's behalf.

Diplomats hope this proposal would guarantee that atomic fuel was not diverted into arms. But Iran has given no indication that it would surrender its right to enrich the uranium it mines in its central deserts.

"We still want to reach a formula to prove that we will not divert uranium enriched on Iranian soil," Vaeedi said. "We are prepared to hold talks with anyone who has something to say."