Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One step closer to the abyss; Iran loads fuel rods into reactor

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran flaunted mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle Wednesday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, clad in a white lab coat, was on hand to load domestically made fuel rods into the core of a Tehran reactor.

Also announced were a new generation of advanced centrifuges and an intent to start production of yellowcake, a material used in enriching uranium.

United Nations sanctions ban Iran from importing yellowcake. Domestic production would further Iranian nuclear self-sufficiency.

In a speech outlining the latest developments, Ahmadinejad said Iran was willing to share its nuclear knowledge with other nations that subscribe to the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency.

State-run Press TV broadcast live images of the Tehran event, hailed by the Iranians as a major scientific advancement for the Islamic republic.

The first Iranian made nuclear fuel rods, produced by Iranian scientists at the Natanz facility in central Iran, are to be used at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center, which Iran says is used primarily for medical purposes.

The Tehran facility creates radio isotopes used for cancer treatment, Press TV reported, adding that 850,000 cancer patients were in dire need.
Ahmadinejad had announced in a speech marking the 33rd anniversary last week of the Iranian revolution that Iran would be unveiling something big.

Wednesday, he lashed out again at Western powers who, he said, attempt to monopolize nuclear technology and prevent other nations from acquiring a key energy source.
Ahmadinejad, surrounded by photos of assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists, said Iran has shown the West up.

Iran's latest activities have spiked tensions with Western powers, which believe Iran's atomic ambitions are focused on building a bomb.

Punitive measures have disrupted Iran's economy and in response to the latest European Union sanctions on the energy and banking sectors, Iran, reported Press TV Wednesday, was cutting oil exports to six European countries: Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Portugal.

But despite Iran's drift from the international community, Tehran's clerical leaders have refused to bow down on its nuclear program that it insists is intended for civilian energy purposes.

Recent Iranian announcements appear aimed at demonstrating to its foes the sophistication it has attained in its home-grown nuclear program.

In January 2008, the semi-official Fars news agency had reported that Iran was able to produce everything it needs for the nuclear fuel cycle, making its nuclear program self-sufficient. But it was not clear that Tehran actually had the technology to turn enriched uranium into fuel rods.

Then, last month, Iran said it had succeeded in building and testing a nuclear fuel rod, or a stack of low-enriched uranium pellets bundled together at the core of a nuclear reactor.

"Because Western countries were unwilling to help us, we began enriching uranium to 20% to make nuclear fuel rods," Ali Bagheri, deputy chief of Iran's national security council, told the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti on Tuesday. Iranian news agencies quoted the Russian news agency report.


A November report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog found "credible" information that Tehran has carried out work toward nuclear weapons -- including tests of possible bomb components.

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