“Iran announces atom progress,” by Fredrik Dahl for Reuters:
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran has started building its first domestically-made atomic power plant, a senior official announced on Saturday, and Tehran’s foreign minister said nuclear talks with the EU were likely in Spain this month.
The deputy head of the atomic energy agency said the planned facility would have a capacity of 360 megawatt (MW), in a statement underlining Iran’s determination to press ahead with its nuclear program despite Western suspicions.
“In the next decade Iran will be one of the most talked-about countries in the world regarding domestic nuclear energy,” Mohammad Saeedi of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
Iran is in a deepening standoff with major powers over its nuclear program which the West fears is aimed at making warheads. Tehran says it wants only to produce electricity.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has taken a lead role in Western contacts with Iran, has said it would “probably take years” to resolve the nuclear dispute.
And by that time, Iran could have developed nuclear weapons and a delivery system capable of reaching even more potential targets.
Solana, a Spaniard, last met Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Turkey on April 25-26 and agreed to hold more talks in the next few weeks.
“There is a high possibility that it (a meeting) will take place in Spain,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the ILNA news agency.
He suggested it would be held sometime between May 22 and May 31. The official IRNA news agency had earlier said May 31 was the agreed date.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest crude oil exporter, has said it wants to construct a network of nuclear power facilities with a capacity of 20,000 MW by 2020 to enable it to export more of its valuable oil and gas.
Saeedi said that in five years’ time, the country would produce both nuclear fuel and electricity, without giving details of where the new plant was being built or when it would be completed.
Tehran has said it would inaugurate a plant being built by Russians in the Gulf coast city of Bushehr in the coming year and would also start building two others. The Bushehr plant has been delayed because of a row over payments.
Saeedi said Iran was producing 290 tonnes of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas per year. Such gas is fed into centrifuges to make enriched uranium for nuclear fuel or, if refined to a much higher degree, for nuclear weapons.
The United Nations has imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran since December over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.
U.S. officials have warned of a third, tougher resolution if Tehran does not halt such work, but Iranian leaders have repeatedly said they will not bow to international pressure.
Iranian officials have in recent weeks made frequent announcements about progress in its nuclear program, this week saying it has installed 1,600 centrifuges used for enriching uranium and is pressing ahead with more.
With 3,000 centrifuges, all running smoothly, Iran could make enough material for at least one warhead in a year, Western diplomats say. But they have said the country has faced technical glitches.