iran dance nuclear 298.8.
(photo credit: AP)
Iran has expanded its controversial nuclear work by starting a second cascade of centrifuges to enrich uranium, a semi-official news agency reported Wednesday.
The news came as world powers moved toward introducing a draft resolution in the UN Security Council that would impose limited sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to cease enrichment - a process that can produce material for nuclear power reactors or weapons.
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The Iranian Students News Agency quoted an anonymous official Wednesday as saying that Iran had started a second cascade of centrifuges two weeks ago and that "gas will be injected into the cascade during the current week."
"We will exploit the new product from the injection," ISNA quoted the official as saying, meaning that Iran would use the enriched uranium obtained by inserting gas into the centrifuges.
The report could not be immediately corroborated as Iranian officials were on holiday for the Islamic feast of Eid al-Fitr.
Neither the official Islamic Republic News Agency nor state television and radio carried the report by ISNA, an agency that receives state funding via the national universities.
Diplomats in Vienna said this week that Iran has started its second cascade of centrifuges in Natanz. The move violates a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN watchdog, that requires Iran to cease all enrichment-related activity.
Iran produced a small batch of enriched uranium in February from a cascade of 164 centrifuges at its nuclear plant at Natanz, central Iran. Iran says it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz by the end of this year. Production of enough uranium to fuel a reactor would require 54,000 centrifuges.
Although Iran is nowhere near that goal, its successful operation of more cascades of centrifuges indicates that the country is gradually mastering the complexities of producing enriched uranium.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that his country's nuclear capability had increased tenfold despite Western pressure to curb its atomic program.
"The enemies, resorting to propaganda, want to block us from achieving (nuclear technology). But they should know that today, the capability of our nation has multiplied tenfold over the same period last year," Ahmadinejad said.
The United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to build an atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear program. But Iran denies this, saying its program is strictly for the generation of electricity. The country ignored an Aug. 31 deadline to cease enrichment.
The US and its European allies are circulating a draft UN Security Council resolution that would ban the sale of missile and nuclear technology to Iran and deny the country certain assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
China and Russia, which can veto Security Council resolutions, are reportedly pushing for continued dialogue with Iran instead of punishment.