News Column

Iran Plans to Boost Uranium Enrichment

Jan. 31, 2013

Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog that it will expand its uranium enrichment capacity by installing more efficient machines, according to a document leaked to the media on Thursday.

The document, which was obtained by dpa, did not provide any indication how many enrichment centrifuges would be set up or when this would take place. Diplomats said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not have this information.

A Western diplomat said last week's announcement of a planned expansion of the Natanz enrichment facility was not enough for intelligence analysts to make new predictions about when Iran might theoretically build a nuclear weapon.

"I think they have not enough information to begin recalculating," the diplomat said.

However, Iran can "enrich more uranium with fewer machines faster," if it installs the next-generation machines as announced to the IAEA, the diplomat said.

Iran's leaders stress that they need uranium only to fuel reactors, not to build weapons.

Diplomats pointed out that so far, the Natanz facility was enriching uranium to a level of 5 per cent, another diplomat said.

This material is less of a concern to the UN Security Council than the 20-per-cent uranium produced at the Fordo facility, because the more highly enriched stock could be turned into a weapon much more quickly.

Israeli leaders have said that it would take Iran until mid-2013 or so to amass enough 20-per-cent material for one nuclear weapon.

Fearing an Israeli attack on Fordo or Natanz after that deadline, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, as well as Germany, known as the P5+1, are seeking talks with Iran to resolve the nuclear stand-off.

Iran's announcement would now feature as an additional topic at the talks that are planned for next month.

"I think the P5+1 will want to discuss it," a diplomat said, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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