Iran Atomic Chief Says New Uranium Enrichment Facility to Soon Become Operational

Fordo uranium enrichment facility near Qom to become second enrichment site after Natanz.

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The new Fordo uranium enrichment facility would soon become operational, the chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Saturday.

"The Fordo site near Qom (south of the capital Tehran) would soon be opened and become operational," Mehr news agency quoted Fereydoun Abbasi as saying.

Abbasi said the site, located near the religious city of Qom and about 160 kilometers south of Tehran, would be able to enrich uranium at levels of 3.5, 4 and 20 percent. He gave no further details about the date, but it was likely that any new nuclear "achievements" would be disclosed in February and on the 33rd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
According to local reports, Iran had last summer already started transferring centrifuges from the main enrichment site of Natanz in central Iran to Fordo.

The Fordow nuclear facility under construction inside a mountain located about 20 miles north northeast of Qom, Iran. Credit: AP

Fordo is to become the second enrichment site after Natanz. The new site was first inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in October 2009, and Iranian officials have said the plant would work with at least 3,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium.

Abbasi said Iranian experts have already produced the new generation of centrifuges, which Iran says are much faster than the previous models and would considerably accelerate the enrichment process.

Iran would soon insert the first batch of 20-per-cent enriched uranium into the research reactor in Tehran, he said.

Last week, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization announced that the country had successfully produced its first home-made fuel plate with 20-per-cent enriched uranium and inserted it, as a test, into the core of the Tehran reactor.

Abbasi also said that the 1,000-megawatt reactor of the Russian-built nuclear power plant in the southern Gulf port of Bushehr would become fully operational in February and be connected to the national grid.

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