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Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Key Iran Official Eyes Expanding Disputed Uranium Operation
A top Iranian official said his country may need a larger uranium-enrichment program for its single nuclear-power facility, the Associated Press reports.
"To meet the annual fuel needs of the Bushehr plant, we must have 50,000 first-generation centrifuges in order to be able to produce 30 tons of nuclear fuel a year," Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said in a state media report quoted by AP on Monday.
Iran wants to be less reliant on Russian fuel for the site, according to AP. The Persian Gulf power now holds about 20,000 enrichment machines, of which about 9,000 are operating.
Salehi added on Sunday that enriching uranium "from 1 percent to 90 percent is our right," Iran's Fars News Agency reported. Uranium enriched to 90 percent purity can fuel nuclear bombs, and capping Iran's refinement far below that level is one objective for the United States and other powers engaged in dialogue with the Middle Eastern nation.
Iran insists its atomic ambitions are peaceful, but agreed to temporarily stop installing new centrifuges and refrain from enriching uranium above 5 percent under a six-month accord with six other governments. The deal, which took effect in January, is designed to lay the groundwork for a long-term deal restricting activities that could help the nation build nuclear weapons, if it chose to do so.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week said Tehran is now capable of generating enough material for a bomb in two months, and suggested that a six- to 12-month buffer period would be "significantly more."
On Monday, a senior Israeli official said Kerry's comment was "worrying," Reuters reported.
"We will not be able to adopt and accept any agreement that keeps Iran within a range of months to a year from nuclear weaponry, because such an agreement would not hold water," Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said.
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