Iran details plans for new mountain nuke sites

Iran said today it plans to build 10 new U-enrichment sites and start construction on first in March.

Last Updated: Aug 16, 2010, 23:41 PM IST

Tehran: Iran said today it plans to build 10
new uranium enrichment sites inside protected mountain
strongholds and start construction on the first in March,
defying international efforts to curb its nuclear program.

Enriching uranium creates fuel for nuclear power plants
but can also, if taken to higher levels, produce the material
for weapons and Iran`s growing capacity in this process is at
the centre of its dispute with the international community.

The UN Security Council has already passed four sets of
sanctions against Iran to try and force it to stop enriching
uranium.

Last year, Iran flouted international concerns by
claiming it would build 10 new enrichment plants and today`s
announcement revealed that the chosen sites would be inside
mountains, without revealing any other details.

"Construction of a new uranium enrichment site will begin
by the end of the (Iranian) year (March) or early next year,"
Salehi said. "The new enrichment facilities will be built
inside mountains."

Revelations a year ago of a previously undisclosed
enrichment facility in a secret mountain base near the city of
Qom inflamed international suspicions over Iran`s nuclear
program and helped spur a fourth set of international
sanctions in June.

The US and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian
nuclear program as a cover to develop a nuclear weapons
capability. Iran has denied the accusation, saying its nuclear
program is geared merely toward generating electricity.

British Prime Minister David Cameron`s spokesman Steve
Field said that Salehi`s announcement was a cause for concern.
"The reports that we have seen this morning certainly do not
give us any comfort that Iran is moving in the right
direction," Field told reporters.

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages,
meanwhile, said the announcement "only intensifies the deep
worries of the international community about the Iranian
nuclear program."

"We want Iran to respect its international obligations by
suspending all its activities of uranium enrichment," she
said.

Iran has an industrial-scale, internationally supervised
enrichment site in Natanz, in central Iran, with around 6,000
operating centrifuges and as well as the smaller one under
construction near Qom. The Islamic republic said it needs 20
large-scale sites to meet domestic electricity needs of 20,000
megawatts in the next 15 years.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today also officially
notified the government of the implementation of a new law
banning the government from anything except the most minimum
level of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy
Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.

PTI