Iran aims to triple its production capacity for higher grade uranium and is shifting that nuclear enrichment work from a site it has used for years to one that was only disclosed in 2009, state broadcaster IRIB reported on Wednesday.
“This year, under the supervision of the [International Atomic Energy] Agency, we will transfer 20 percent enrichment from the Natanz site to the Fordow site and we will increase the production capacity by three times,” the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, told reporters after a cabinet meeting, IRIB reported. Iran’s uranium enrichment is at the heart of a standoff with countries, led by the United States, that believe the Islamic Republic is developing nuclear weapons, something it denies. Several rounds of international sanctions have failed to force Iran to curb enrichment which it considers its sovereign right and Wednesday’s announcement that it will up output rather than reduce it looked certain to further alarm Western powers. Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants, Iran’s stated aim, or provide bomb material if processed much further. On Monday, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said he had received new evidence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear work, comments President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed as being dictated by Iran’s foe Washington. Iran started enriching uranium to 20 percent purity in early 2010 after talks on a nuclear fuel swap -- under which other countries would supply the higher grade duel Iran needs for a medical research reactor -- broke down.