Iran Enriches Uranium, Plans New Expansion

Iran's President Ahmadinejad announced his country's production of enriched uranium at a ceremony.

hide captionIran's President Ahmadinejad announced his country's production of enriched uranium at a ceremony in Mashad.

Reuters

Iran announces it has produced enriched uranium at a nuclear research facility. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad maintains the program is designed only to produce energy, but the United States and other Western powers remain concerned Iran might build nuclear weapons.

In announcing that Iran has joined the group of countries possessing nuclear technology, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he is determined to achieve industrial-scale uranium enrichment.

President Ahmadinejad's announcement was confirmed in a television appearance by Gholamreza Aqazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. Aqazadeh said Iranian scientists working at the pilot facility at Natanz successfully enriched uranium to the 3.5 percent level, using a small cascade of 164 gas centrifuges.

Iran intends to build a complex of 3,000 gas centrifuges over the course of the next year. The enrichment program unveiled Tuesday is capable of processing very small amounts of low-grade enriched uranium. Experts say the output is not close to the amount or the purity needed for a nuclear weapon.

In responding to the news, the White House said Iran is moving in the wrong direction.

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed el Baradei, is due in Tehran for talks Wednesday, and IAEA inspectors may be able to visit the Natanz facility to confirm Iran's claims. Iran's facilities are still technically under IAEA safeguards.

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