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Iran using Chinese-made feedstock for enriched uranium: diplomats
Cat : WMD
Date : 2006-05-20 09:21:57                      Reader : 363
Israel already bombarded Iraq and Tunis, and today wants to strike . Iran . Israel is the most dangerous country threating world peace and security .


Associated France Press (AFP) 20/5/2006

Iran using Chinese-made feedstock for

enriched uranium: diplomats


by Michael Adler

VIENNA (AFP) - Iran used stocks of high-quality uranium gas from China in order to hasten a breakthrough in enrichment for a programme the West fears could be hiding nuclear weapons work, diplomats told AFP.

"The Iranians have sought to accomplish a technological achievement for political purposes and chose the Chinese feedstock gas because of its quality, which ensures a better (uranium) enrichment process," said a diplomat with access to intelligence sources.

The diplomat, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Iran had "wanted to declare it had done uranium enrichment and were in a hurry," as they wanted to have a fait accompli before the UN Security Council could move against them once an April deadline fell.

The Security Council had given Iran until April 28 to halt enrichment, which makes fuel for nuclear power reactors but can also produce the raw material for atomic bombs.

A second diplomat said Iran had indeed used uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas supplied by China to feed a 164-centrifuge cascade, or array of machines, that enriches uranium.

But the diplomat said Iran had also tried out some of its own UF6, which intelligence sources say is believed to contain contaminants that can cause centrifuges to crash.

Although Iranian UF6 has gotten better, the Iranians are "trying to create facts on the ground that are not there," non-proliferation analyst David Albright said. He said the Iranians have not yet mastered enrichment and still "have a lot of tests to do.".

The Iranians "did not use their own UF6 because they wanted to be completely sure" they could turn out enriched uranium in time, the first diplomat said.

Iran defied the Council’s calls, and the world body is now deadlocked over whether to issue a resolution that would legally oblige Iran to stop uranium enrichment.

Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday ridiculed an EU plan to offer trade and technology incentives in exchange for an agreement to halt the highly strategic enrichment work.

Iran had suspended enrichment-related work as part of talks with the European Union since October 2003 on guaranteeing that its nuclear program is peaceful but began making UF6, which is processed from uranium ore, again last August when talks broke down.

Since September, they have made some 110 tons of the gas, according to a report of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

If the entire quantity were enriched, it would yield enough material for about 20 atom bombs, Albright said from his IISS think-tank in Washington.

Iran began feeding UF6 gas into centrifuges in February, thus beginning the enrichment process, at a facility in Natanz in the center of the country.

On April 11, Tehran announced that it had actually made enriched uranium but only to levels appropriate for reactor fuel, not for weapons.

The first diplomat said that Iran had made only "dozens of grams" of enriched uranium, far from the 15-25 kilograms (30-55 pounds) needed to make a nuclear bomb.

"It is a technological success, but it is politically that it is very important," the diplomat said.

Albright agreed with this analysis, saying: "Iran has barely operated its cascade. It needs to operate the cascade much longer and with much greater output" to show that it knows what it is doing.

He said that if Iran had operated the 164-centrifuge cascade full-time for two weeks it would have produced two kilograms of enriched uranium but is loading the centrifuges much less than that.

China began building a conversion facility in Isfahan in the 1990s to make UF6 and supplied Iran then with about a ton of the gas but broke the contract in 1997 under US pressure.

Iran completed the facility using Chinese designs.

The second diplomat said the Iranians used Chinese feed but also their own UF6, made in Isfahan, at the Natanz enrichment facility, where they had built the 164-centrifuge cascade.

"We think they used both, perhaps to compare the two, and certainly to demonstrate to themselves that their own UF6 is capable of being enriched without too many centrifuge problems," the diplomat said.

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