Thursday, February 16, 2012

Verbatim: "Our Nuclear Path Will Continue"

By Parisa Hafezi of Reuters: "Iran proclaimed advances in nuclear know-how on Wednesday, including new centrifuges able to enrich uranium much faster, a move that may hasten a drift towards confrontation with the West over suspicions it is seeking the means to make atomic bombs. "The era of bullying nations has passed. The arrogant powers cannot monopolize nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a live television broadcast. "Our nuclear path will continue." The nuclear achievements proclaimed by Tehran involve a new line of uranium enrichment centrifuge and the loading of its first domestically produced batch of fuel into a research reactor that is expected to soon run out of imported stocks. Tehran has for some years been developing and testing new generations of centrifuges to replace its outdated, erratic "P-1" model. In January it said it had successfully manufactured and tested its own fuel rods for use in nuclear power plants. Ahmadinejad said the "4th generation" of centrifuge would be able to refine uranium 3x as fast as previously. If Iran eventually succeeds in introducing modern centrifuges, it could shorten the time needed to stockpile enriched uranium. Ahmadinejad said Iran had significantly increased the number of centrifuges at its main enrichment site at Natanz, saying there were now 9,000 such machines installed there. Russia said global powers must work harder to coax concessions from Iran, warning that Tehran's willingness to compromise was waning as it makes progress toward the potential capability of building nuclear warheads. Iran says it was forced to manufacture its own fuel for the Tehran reactor after failing to agree to terms to obtain it from the West. In 2010, Iran alarmed the West by starting to enrich uranium to a fissile purity of 20% for the stated purpose of reprocessing into special fuel for the Tehran reactor. In boosting enrichment up from the 3.5% level suitable for powering civilian plants, Iran moved significantly closer to the 90% threshold suitable for the fissile core of a nuclear warhead. Said Mark Fitzpatrick of London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, "if Iran is really running the reactor with untested fuel plates, then my advice to the residents surrounding the building would be to move somewhere else. It will be unsafe." Spent fuel can be reprocessed into plutonium, the alternative key ingredient in atomic bombs. But Western worries about Iran's nuclear program have focused on its enrichment program, which has accumulated enough material for several bombs. Analysts say the fuel rod development itself will not put Iran any closer to producing nuclear weapons, but could be a way of telling Tehran's adversaries that time is running out if they want a negotiated solution to the dispute."