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Iran to speed up nuclear fuel production at Natanz enrichment plant

Iran has announced that it will upgrade its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, allowing it to produce nuclear fuel faster.

Iran natanz nuclear plant 01 31 2013Enlarge
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities in April 2008. (Office of the Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran/Getty Images)

Iran has announced plans to significantly speed up its production of enriched uranium, to the alarm of those who fear the country is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency obtained by Reuters, the Iranian government said it planned to install new and more advanced centrifuges at its main enrichment plant, Natanz.

The next-generation machines are said to be capable of enriching uranium up to five times faster than the current rate, according to the Associated Press, which described the planned change as "a major technological update."

Diplomats told the AP that Iran wanted to install more than 3,000 of the new centrifuges in addition to the 10,000 already operating at Natanz. The upgrade is likely to take some time to complete, one source said.

More from GlobalPost: Iran will have enough uranium for nuclear weapons by mid-2014, report says

Iran maintains that its enrichment program is designed to provide fuel for nuclear power plants, though other countries are concerned that it could ultimately provide material for atomic warheads.

The Natanz plant enriches uranium to a grade well below that required for nuclear weapons: just 4 percent, according to the New York Times.

A newer plant, Fordow, can enrich it to a higher – though still sub-weapons grade – 20 percent, and is a particular source of concern to the West because it is hidden underground, the Times said.

The UN Security Council has repeatedly demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium. RIA Novosti reported that council member Russia on Thursday urged Tehran to freeze its enrichment activities after learning of the plans for Natanz, even though Moscow says it supports a civilian nuclear program in Iran.

The five Council members plus Germany are due to hold their next round of talks with Iran in February, though no date or location has yet been set.

The Iranian government says it remains fully committed to reaching a diplomatic solution to the dipute over its nuclear program, according to the Tehran Times.

More from GlobalPost: IAEA chief not hopeful on Iran nuclear talks

Ryszard Ewiak More than 1 year ago
Where are we going? An ancient vision says: "And [the king of the north] will go back (to) his land with great wealth [1945]; and his heart (will be) against the holy covenant [state atheism]; and will act [it means activity in the international arena]; and turned back to his own land [1991-1993. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Russian troops returned to their country]. At the appointed time [he] will return back." (Daniel 11:28, 29a, literal translation) The return of Russia in this context means crisis, which will eclipse the Great Depression. Not only the eurozone will break up, but also the European Union and NATO. Then many countries of the former Eastern block will return to Russia's zone of influence. Russian troops will be stationed here again. Russia, however, will not return everywhere. "And [the king of the north] will enter into the south [Georgia], but it will not be as the former [1921] or as the latter [2008], for the dwellers of coastlands of Kittim [the West] will come against him, and he will be dejected, and will go back." (Daniel 11:29b, 30a, literal translation) Moses writes: "But ships from the direction of Kittim [USN], and troubling Asshur [Russia] and troubling Eber [remaining enemies, including Iran and China]." (Numbers 24:24a, literal translation) This will be a nuclear war. (Revelation 6:4) "A great sword" = a nuclear sword. As Jesus foretold, it will be "the beginning of birth pains". (Mathew 24:7, 8) All the details of this vision are being fulfilled from the time of ancient Persia, in chronological order. It is true that this vision is variously interpreted. As one can see, it has a lot of details. Therefore the insightful person is able to detect any error or sophistry. (Daniel 12:10) In 1882 British troops occupied Egypt. Great Britain then took the role of "the king of the south". Around the same time, Russia expanded its influence in the region, which previously belonged to Seleucus I Nicator, and took the role of "the king of the north". (Daniel 11:27)