Middle East News
Report: Iran to install 54,000 centrifuges (Roundup)
Aug 29, 2008, 12:18 GMT
Tehran - Iran plans to install 54,000 centrifuges at its uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz in central Iran, the news network Khabar reported Friday - a move that would lead to the industrial-scale production of enriched uranium despite international calls for Iran to halt the programme.
Iran is moving toward large-scale uranium enrichment in Natanz that would ultimately involve 54,000 centrifuges, Khabar reported without giving further details.
There was no official confirmation of the Khabar report, which ran several times on the network's news ticker.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Sheikh-Attar said earlier Friday that Iran has 4,000 operational centrifuges in Natanz.
The official news agency IRNA quoted the minister as saying that almost 4,000 centrifuges were operating in Natanz and 3,000 more were being installed.
The remarks by Sheikh-Attar, who according to IRNA is to become Iran's next ambassador to Germany, contradicted last month's claims by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that of 6,000 new centrifuges, 5,000 had become operational.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has so far confirmed that about 3,000 to 3,500 centrifuges were operational at the Natanz plant. Iranian claims numbers of centrifuges that often do not match IAEA reports.
Centrifuges are used for enriching uranium, and if the enrichment percentage is low, the uranium could be used merely for nuclear fuel, but at a higher percentage, it could also be used - as feared by the West and denied by Tehran - to make an atomic bomb.
The United States and its allies have demanded a suspension of Iran's enrichment activities, and the UN Security Council has passed three sanctions resolutions also calling for a halt, which Tehran has ignored.
Iran claims to have gone beyond the research phase and reached uranium enrichment at an industrial-scale, which is necessary for producing nuclear fuel.
But Tehran insists enrichment has not gone beyond the 5-per-cent level for producing nuclear fuel. Uranium enriched to a higher degree is used for nuclear weapons.
It remained unclear, however, whether Iran uses P-1 centrifuges or the more advanced P-2 - also called IR-2 - centrifuges.
The P-2 centrifuges are more than twice as efficient as the P-1 devices and would heighten concerns that Iran could be in a position to produce material for nuclear weapons.
Iran claimed earlier this year to have started testing the IR-2 centrifuges and also informed the IAEA in Vienna of the development.