Iran develops new generation of uranium centrifuges

MPs push for bill to legislate enrichment of fissile material to 60% purity — 12 times the limit agreed to last month

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

The head of Iran’s atomic energy organization on Thursday said that the Islamic Republic has designed a new generation of uranium centrifuges, and that they are ready to be manufactured after testing.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization’s chief, gave no indication to Iranian media when production of the new centrifuges would take place, nor were specific details about their capacity mentioned.

According to Salehi, Iran currently possesses 19,000 centrifuges, 1,000 more than his predecessor said the country had in August.

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Salehi saying that Iran is proud to be among the few countries “that are capable of conducting the full fuel cycle of the nuclear fuel production from discovery to mining and from there to turning uranium to nuclear fuel.”

Earlier in December, an AEO spokesperson said Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) information about the new line of centrifuges, which PressTV quoted him saying “has a higher capacity” than previous generations of equipment used in the country’s nuclear program.

Thursday’s announcement came following a push by a significant number of Iranian lawmakers to legislate the enrichment of uranium to 60 percent purity — 12 times the cap Iran agreed by Iran as part of a deal reached with the US and world powers in November.

At 60% pure uranium 235, Iran could quite quickly convert its stockpiles of enriched fissile material to weapons-grade uranium, a major concern of Israel and the United States. Iran contends, however, that its nuclear weapons program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, 100 of the 290 members of Iran’s parliament signed a draft law calling on President Hasan Rouhani to approve enrichment of uranium to 60%, saying it was necessary for fueling nuclear submarines and “other facilities in case the western anti-Iran sanctions are intensified.”

The report noted the several such bills have been proffered by Iranian lawmakers without success in recent years.

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