Iranian President Ahmadinejad at nuclear facility 390 (R).
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad loaded nuclear fuel rods into the
Tehran Research Reactor on Wednesday, state TV reported.
president loaded 20 percent enriched rods into the Tehran Reactor... it
is a sign of Iranian scientists' achievements," said state TV, which
broadcast the ceremony live.
The country is also set to unveil a new generation of its domestically made uranium
enrichment centrifuges. "The
fourth generation of domestically made centrifuges have higher speed
and production capacity... it will be unveiled on Wednesday," state TV
The moves appeared designed to show that increased sanctions are
failing to halt Iran's technical progress and to strengthen its hand in
any renewed negotiations with the major powers.
believe Iran has in the past overstated its nuclear achievements to gain
leverage in its standoff with Western powers, which suspect Iran is
seeking to develop the means to make atom bombs, a charge the country
Ahmadinejad said on Saturday Iran would soon announce new advances
in its nuclear program.
elements, for the first time created by Iranian scientists, will in the
presence of the president ... be loaded into the Tehran research
reactor," Bagheri, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security
Council, was quoted as saying.
Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at
the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he did not believe
the Iranian announcement signaled any mass production of nuclear fuel.
"We are talking about laboratory-scale production of a single element for the reactor," he said.
fuel can be reprocessed to make plutonium, potential bomb material, but
Western worries about Iran's nuclear program are focused on its
enrichment of uranium, which can also provide the core of nuclear
weapons if refined much more.
Western powers fear that Iran's
uranium enrichment program is part of a covert bid to develop the means
to build atomic weapons - suspicions that were given independent weight
by a detailed UN nuclear watchdog report late last year.
says it is refining uranium for a planned network of nuclear power
plants. The Tehran research reactor makes medical isotopes to treat
"They want to show that they have the technical
expertise to master the fuel cycle," one European diplomat in Vienna
said. "It would not be entirely unlike them - even at a time when they
are feeling under pressure - to try to make another demonstration of
There was no immediate comment from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog.
2010, Iran alarmed the West by starting to enrich uranium to a fissile
purity of 20 percent, up from 3.5 percent usually required for power
plants, bringing it significantly closer to the 90 percent level
required for weapons.
Iran said it was forced to take this step
to make fuel for the Tehran research reactor after failing to agree
terms for a deal to obtain it from the West. But many analysts doubted
it would be able to convert its uranium into special reactor fuel.
provide fuel for the Tehran research reactor, as Western countries were
not ready to help us, we have started to enrich uranium to 20 percent,"
RIA quoted Bagheri as saying.
Hibbs said the announcement of domestically made fuel was meant to show the world that Iran's intentions were peaceful.
"The message of this is that the higher enriched uranium that they are producing is for peaceful use," he said.