Iran Vows 10 New Uranium Plants

Daily News Article   —   Posted on December 1, 2009

(by Betsy Pisik, WashingtonTimes.com) – Iran vowed Sunday to build 10 additional uranium enrichment plants and to counter opponents’ potential military strikes by hiding the plants deep in mountains throughout the Islamic republic.

The decree from Iran’s Cabinet was perhaps the most unequivocal rejection of Western-led efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the nuclear standoff with Iran, and it triggered immediate rebukes from the U.S. and other nations.

Iran said it acted in response to censure by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) two days earlier over a newly discovered uranium enrichment site that Iran had not acknowledged until recently.

“The decision taken today is a firm reply to the indecent move by the five plus one in the latest IAEA meeting,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, a vice president and Iran’s top nuclear official.

Five plus one refers to permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which together spearheaded Friday’s action by the IAEA.

“Ten new enrichment sites will be built. We are as much committed to our rights as we are to our international obligations,” Mr. Salehi said Sunday, according to Iranian state media.

“From now on, our enrichment sites will not be built in the open air but in the hearts of mountains. … They will not be concentrated in one area … taking into consideration all safety measures from any attacks.”

Israel has threatened and reportedly sought U.S. backing for military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. The U.S. likewise has not ruled out military action.

“Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. The IAEA and the United Nations “have to enforce the rules of the road.”

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called Iran’s latest move provocative.

“This epitomizes the fundamental problem that we face with Iran,” Mr. Miliband said. “We have stated over and again that we recognize Iran’s right to a civilian nuclear program, but they must restore international confidence in their intentions. Instead of engaging with us, Iran chooses to provoke and dissemble.”

Iran says its expanding nuclear ambitions are peaceful and intended to produce electricity.

“We need some 500,000 centrifuges to produce fuel for the power plants under construction to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity for domestic use,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday, according to state media.

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants. When enriched to a purer level, it can provide the explosive core of atomic bombs, such as the one dropped on Hiroshima at the close of World War II.

Attempts by Iran to hide much of its nuclear activities for more than two decades have enhanced suspicions that its nuclear goals are military.

The U.N. Security Council already has imposed several sets of mild sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear efforts. In recent days, the U.S. has sought support for tougher measures against Iran – measures that have been blocked by Russia and China in the past.

Friday’s IAEA censure was unusual because it won support from both China and Russia, which have close commercial links with Iran.

Iran has one uranium enrichment facility operating at Nantaz, considered capable of making enough fuel for about one nuclear bomb each year.

The recent disclosure of the second site, inside a mountain near the holy city of Qom, has reinforced fears that Iran continues to hide much of its nuclear program from outside inspectors.

Prior to Friday’s censure by the IAEA, Iran had rejected an IAEA-brokered deal that would have exported Iran’s existing supply of low-enriched uranium to Russia or another country, where it would be converted into fuel rods for a medical reactor and returned to Iran.

Copyright 2009 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.


Questions

1. Define the following words as used in the article:
unequivocal (para. 2)
censure (para. 3)
indecent (para. 4)
provocative (para. 10)

2. a) What action has Iran announced it will be taking regarding its nuclear program?
b) What reasons did their top nuclear official give for their actions? Be specific.

3. a) How has the Obama administration responded to Ali Akbar Salehi’s announcement?
b) How has the British government responded?

4. For what purpose is enriched uranium used?

5. What nuclear capabilities does Iran currently have?

6. Why are Western countries so concerned about Iran’s nuclear program? (Read the information in the “Background” below for further information.)

7. a) The U.S. has not had a diplomatic relationship with Iran since 1979 when Iranian revolutionaries held U.S. Embassy workers hostage. President Obama changed this position by having officials from his administration negotiate with Iran without preconditions. Why do you think this approach has not improved Iran’s response to requests to end its nuclear program?
b) How do you think the U.S. and members of the U.N. Security Council should deal with Iran? Explain your answer.


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Background

  • Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs.
  • Under the United Nations’ NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom).
  • Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
  • The IAEA issued a report on Sept. 15, 2008 that said Iran has repeatedly blocked an investigation into its nuclear program and the probe is now deadlocked.
  • The U.N. Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance. Despite the sanctions, Iran has refused to end its nuclear program.
  • A group of U.S. and Russian scientists said in a report issued in May 2009 that Iran could produce a simple nuclear device in one to three years and a nuclear warhead in another five years after that. The study, published by the nonpartisan EastWest Institute, also said Iran is making advances in rocket technology and could develop a ballistic missile capable of firing a 2,200-pound nuclear warhead up to 1,200 miles “in perhaps six to eight years.”
  • The Iranian government has called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions. It is believed that once obtained, Iranian President Ahmadinejad would use nuclear weapons against Israel.

IAEA CENSURES IRAN:

  • The board of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency censured Iran (Nov. 27, 2009) for its nuclear program, in a motion endorsed by all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
  • Twenty five nations in the 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted in favor of the censure motion, which calls on Iran to halt construction of a recently revealed uranium enrichment plant.
  • The measure says the plant violates a United Nations Security Council resolution. The motion also demands that Iran cease enriching uranium.
  • The vote was significant because Russia and China voted in favor of the censure motion, along with the three other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the United States, France and Britain – as well as Germany.
  • While the motion may not make a difference in itself, it carries weight in a push for tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran.

ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT:
Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation (buildup).

Resources

Go to worldatlas.com for a map of Iran and the Middle East.