Iran has new centrifuges, nuclear fuel plates
Reuters photoState television reported on Wednesday that Iran has made advances in its nuclear programme, building new uranium enrichment centrifuges and producing its own nuclear reactor fuel plates.
The announcement, to be confirmed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad later Wednesday, was likely to further unsettle the United States and allies who believe Iran is also forging ahead with atomic weapon development.
Iran has developed "4th generation centrifuges" made of carbon fibre that are "speedier, produce less waste and occupy less space" as they spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium, state television reported, citing Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation.
Iran also created its own 20-percent fuel plates for a research reactor in Tehran whose stock of fuel sourced from Argentina in the 1990s is running low, the report said.
The television also said that Iran had made progress in 20 percent uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility, beyond enrichment activities already underway there.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful, civilian purposes.
Israel and the United States have left the option open to conduct military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities if the Islamic republic does not reduce or halt its nuclear programme.
nprecedentedly tough US and EU economic sanctions have been imposed on Iran in recent weeks and months to push for that goal.
But Iran has brushed those off, saying it will not cede its "rights" to nuclear energy.
It has begun uranium enrichment operations in a fortified bunker in Fordo, near its holy city of Qom.
Wednesday's announcement of further progress showed its determination to defy Western pressure and four rounds of UN sanctions.
Western analysts had previously cast doubt on Iran's technical ability to create the 20-percent enriched fuel plates needed for the Tehran reactor.
The UN nuclear watchdog expressed strong suspicions in November that Iran's programme had a military component. It is to send a high-level delegation back to Iran next week to discuss concerns, following inconclusive talks in Tehran late last month.