Iran boosts uranium enrichment programme
Saturday, 30 August 2008

Announcement likely to fuel western fears about nuclear weapon capability


Iran today said it had stepped up its uranium enrichment programme in an announcement likely to fuel western fears about the country's nuclear weapon capability.

Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, the deputy foreign minister, told Iran's official news agency that the country was operating 4,000 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant and preparations were under way to install more centrifuges.
"Right now, nearly 4,000 centrifuges are operating at Natanz enrichment plant," Attar said. "Currently, 3,000 other centrifuges are being installed."
Iran has said it is installing centrifuges to enrich uranium into fuel to power civil nuclear energy plants. The latest news will cause alarm in Washington, which has accused Tehran of seeking to enrich uranium for use in nuclear warheads.
In the enrichment process, uranium gas is pumped into a series of centrifuges and spun at supersonic speeds to remove impurities. Enriching at a low level produces nuclear fuel, but at a higher level it can produce the material for a warhead.
This number of centrifuges takes Iran's enrichment capability beyond what is considered an experimental level towards an industrial scale, capable of producing enough enriched material for nuclear weapons.
However, experts say Iran would need to change the way its centrifuges work to be able to produce weapons-grade uranium.
The US and its allies have offered Iran a package of incentives to halt its nuclear work, but Tehran has repeatedly said it will not do so. There are now calls for more UN sanctions against Iran.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has brushed off the threat of sanctions, saying Iran has enough oil revenues to cope.

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