Iran to build ten new uranium enrichment plants

Monday, November 30, 2009

Iran announced earlier today that it plans to build ten new uranium enrichment plants. Iranian media reported that the Cabinet approved the construction of the plants just two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) censured Iran for its nuclear activities.

The proposed facilities, reported to be similar to Iran's main nuclear plant at Natanz, would vastly increase the nation's capacity to produce enriched uranium. Iranian media quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that Iran should get to the point where it can produce 250 to 300 tons of nuclear fuel each year.

"We should reach a position where we can produce from 250–300 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year. To do this we must employ new centrifuges with a higher speed," he commented.

Ahmadinejad said the new Iranian-designed centrifuges used to enrich uranium will have higher speeds than those currently being used. He added that Iran "is not joking around with anyone" when it comes to defending its nuclear rights.

The announcement seems to make good on a warning earlier in the day that pressure on Iran would force it to reduce its cooperation with the IAEA. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said western pressure may force parliament to review the country's stance toward the UN nuclear agency.

Iranian Members of Parliament said that "we consider the behaviour 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 five-plus-one group of nations working on the Iran nuclear issue — the US, France, Britain, Russia, China, and Germany — all voted Friday for the IAEA censure of Iran for defying international demands to freeze uranium enrichment and for secretly building a nuclear facility. The move appeared to take many officials in Tehran by surprise.

The tensions coincide with problems over an IAEA proposal to send Iran's uranium abroad for enrichment, part of a plan to ease some concerns that Iran might be pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying that the programme is for civilian purposes only. The country has offered counter-proposals to the deal, but the IAEA has not accepted any of them.

An unnamed US official said that "if [the plant construction is] carried out, [it] 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."