Iran: 30,000 new centrifuges needed for fuel

Nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi says program intended to meet domestic energy needs

Illustrative. Centrifuges enriching uranium. (Public Domain/US Department of Energy/Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative. Centrifuges enriching uranium. (Public Domain/US Department of Energy/Wikimedia Commons)

TEHRAN — Iran will need 30,000 of its new generation centrifuges to meet domestic fuel demands, far more than the current number, its nuclear chief said Sunday.

Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments came just days after the latest round of international talks in Vienna aimed at securing a long-term deal over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

The capability and number of centrifuges at Tehran’s disposal has been a key concern among countries which suspect the Islamic republic’s eventual goal is to build an atomic bomb.

Iran currently has nearly 19,000 centrifuges, including 10,000 of the so-called first generation being used to enrich uranium.

The country insists its nuclear activities are solely for civilian purposes.

“If we want to use the Natanz enrichment facility to produce the annual fuel of Bushehr nuclear power plant, we need to build 30,000 new centrifuges,” Salehi was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.

Under an interim agreement reached last year that expires on July 20, Iran froze key parts of its nuclear program in return for limited sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions.

Under the deal, Iran cannot increase its number of centrifuges, but in February it announced it was developing new ones that are 15 times more powerful than those currently used.

Any final deal with the West may involve Iran slashing its number of centrifuges, changing the design of a new reactor at Arak and giving UN inspectors more oversight.

The Bushehr plant, which produces 1,000 megawatts of electricity, came into service in 2011 after several delays blamed on technical problems. Tehran took control of the plant from Russia last year.

In October, Salehi said Iran had built a fuel production line for its sole nuclear power plant which would go on stream within three months.

However, he did not specify a date after which Iran could use locally produced fuel instead of that provided by Russia.

Iran has said it wants to produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity from nuclear power, which would require building 20 reactors.

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