Iran’s Government today announced plans to build ten new uranium enrichment plants and said work would start within two months.
Each site will be the size of the existing Natanz plant with the aim of producing between 250-300 tonnes of uranium a year.
IRNA, Iran’s state news agency, says the Government ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to begin construction of five uranium enrichment sites that have already been studied and propose five other sites for future construction.
The decision was made during a Cabinet meeting headed by President Ahmadinejad on Sunday evening, IRNA said.
The move comes just two days after world powers united in condemnation of Iran’s nuclear activities in a rare show of international consensus on the threat posed by Tehran’s continued nuclear defiance.
China and Russia joined the United States, Britain, France and Germany in backing an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution censuring Iran and ordering it to halt construction of a secret uranium enrichment plant near Qom.
The Iranian announcement came on the same day the national Parliament responded to the IAEA condemnation by calling on the Government to prepare a plan on reducing cooperation with the UN body. Iran claims its nuclear programme is for civilian use only.
“Because of world powers’ hasty behaviour, the Government should submit its plan over reducing Iran’s cooperation level with the agency,” MPs said in a statement read out in Parliament.
Parliament can oblige the Government to change the level of cooperation with the IAEA, as it did in 2006 after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.
In Vienna, spokeswoman Gillian Tudor said the IAEA would make no immediate comment on Iran’s announcement.
Natanz is Iran’s only industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant. The IAEA said this month that about 8,600 centrifuges had been set up in Natanz, but only about 4,000 were enriching uranium. The facility will eventually house 54,000 centrifuges.
The newly revealed enrichment site, known as Fordo, is a small scale site that will house nearly 3,000 centrifuges.
In the enrichment process, uranium gas is spun in centrifuges to purify it. Enriched to a low degree, the result is fuel for a nuclear reactor – but highly enriched uranium can be used to build a warhead.
Before the latest announcement Gordon Brown had warned that the major powers would pursue harsher sanctions against Iran if it ignored the vote.
The IAEA resolution, the first since February 2006, passed with 25 votes and six abstentions. Only Malaysia, Venezuela and Cuba supported Iran.
Following the vote, Russia urged Tehran to “react with full seriousness to the signal contained in the resolution … and to ensure full co-operation with the agency.”
China, which has shared Moscow’s reluctance to take a hard line with Tehran, was reportedly persuaded to support the resolution after an emergency meeting with the US National Security Advisor in Beijing last week.
The last-minute trip came after Iran backtracked on a deal to remove most of its nuclear fuel stockpile abroad in return for material needed for its medical research reactor.
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