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Iran Plans to Build 10 Enrichment Factories

Iran announced plans Sunday to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants in a major expansion of its nuclear program, a clear show of defiance after the UN nuclear watchdog rebuked Tehran over such secret work.

The decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government will further aggravate tensions between the Islamic Republic and major powers seeking a diplomatic solution to a long-running dispute over Iranian nuclear activities.

The new enrichment facilities would be the same size as Iran’s main enrichment complex at Natanz and work would begin within two months, state broadcaster IRIB said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency angered Iran on Friday when it censured the Islamic Republic for secretly building a second uranium enrichment plant, in addition to the one in Natanz.

“This is the reaction to the resolution which was bound to happen,” a senior diplomat close to the IAEA said, adding that it was unclear how much of it was a bluff or a real plan.

Russia on Friday called on Iran to treat the IAEA’s censure seriously.

“We count on Tehran to react with full seriousness to the signal contained in the resolution … and to ensure full cooperation with the agency,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Ahmadinejad said Iran should aim to produce 250 metric tons to 300 metric tons of nuclear fuel a year and that new, faster centrifuges should be used to reach that target.

He did not give a time frame.

“We have a friendly approach towards the world, but at the same time we won’t let anyone harm even one iota of the Iranian nation’s rights,” he said.

“We have to reach to a level to produce 250 metric tons to 300 metric tons of nuclear fuel per year, and in order to reach this aim we would use new centrifuges with a higher speed,” the president said.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said, according to the semi-official Mehr News Agency, “Ten new enrichment plants will be built.”

IRIB said the location of five of the plants had already been decided and that work on these should start within two months. At the same time, the Atomic Energy Organization should find suitable locations for the other five.

It did not say when the plants would be completed.

The IAEA approved a Russian fuel bank holding $300 million euros ($449 million) worth of low-enriched uranium Friday.

Ahmadinejad also said the government last week studied the issue of producing nuclear fuel enriched to 20 percent, IRIB reported, compared with the level of 3.5 percent that it has now.

The proposal won by a 25 to 8 vote at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors Friday in Vienna.

The agency also said it wanted Russia to improve the way that it deals with radioactive waste.                             

(Reuters, Bloomberg)

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