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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran to build second enrichment plant by March 2009

RIA Novosti

09/04/2008 14:06 TEHRAN, April 9 (RIA Novosti) - Iran will build another uranium enrichment facility by next March, a deputy head of the country's nuclear energy organization said on Wednesday.

"A second plant will be launched in the city of Ardakan, Yazd Province," Hossein Fagihian from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said.

He said the plant will fully meet Iran's need for yellowcake, a uranium concentrate, which is an intermediate step in the processing of uranium ores.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic had started to install another 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges at its underground facility in Natanz.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has around 3,000 functional enrichment centrifuges at Natanz, which experts believe is enough to launch full-scale production of nuclear fuel.

Iran currently uses 'P-1' centrifuges that are prone to breakdown when working at high speed for long periods. The new centrifuges are believed to be of the advanced 'P-2' model, which is more reliable and can enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels.

The country's leaders previously said that they intended to install 50,000 centrifuges at Natanz to make the country independent of nuclear fuel imports.

The country's nuclear program has increased tensions between Washington, with U.S. President George Bush saying last year that military action against Teheran was still possible despite a report by the country's intelligence agencies suggesting that the Islamic Republic had halted attempts to create a nuclear bomb in 2003

Tehran has repeatedly defied international demands to halt uranium enrichment, used both in weapons and electricity production, insisting it needs the process to generate electricity. The country is under three sets of UN sanctions over its uranium program.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are due to meet later in April to discuss future steps in resolving the Iranian nuclear problem.

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