Iran to Boost Uranium Enrichment
Source: Financial Times, Najmeh Bozorgmehr and James Blitz (6/8/11)
"Tehran insists its uranium production is for peaceful, electricity-related purposes."
Iran plans to triple its capacity to produce highly enriched uranium and shift its manufacture to an underground bunker, Tehran said on Wednesday.
The moves are certain to trigger renewed international concern that the country aims to build a nuclear weapon.
Tehran announced it would aim to treble production of uranium enriched at the 20% level. This level is seen by many governments as a significant step towards manufacture of weapons-grade 90% enriched uranium.
Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said production would move from the Natanz underground site, where most enrichment takes place, to the Fordow underground bunker near Qom, south of Tehran.
Tehran has always insisted that its production of uranium is for peaceful purposes, related to the need to generate electricity. Western powers have long argued that it is aimed at building a nuclear weapon.
Although Iran's program has suffered setbacks, the new announcement will be seen as an indication that it remains determined to be capable of conducting a nuclear test within the next few years.
Mr Abbasi-Davani indicated that the latest move was a defiant response to Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who said on Monday there was evidence of possible military aspects to Iran's nuclear program.