Rafsanjani: Iran producing atomic fuel


Tue Apr 11, 2006 10:55 AM ET

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Iran is producing enriched uranium from 164 centrifuges, influential former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told Kuwait's KUNA news agency on Tuesday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he would announce "good news" about Iran's atomic program later on Tuesday. Media speculated he would announce the production of low-grade enriched uranium suitable for running atomic power stations.

The announcement is likely to anger the West and the United Nations, which have demanded that the Islamic Republic halt its atomic work.

"We operated the first unit which comprises of 164 centrifuges, gas was injected, and we got the industrial output," Rafsanjani said in an interview.

"There needs to be an expansion of operations if we are to have a complete industrial unit; tens of units are required to set up a uranium enrichment plant," he added.

The West fears Iran could be using its power station program as a smokescreen for building atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in March Iran had started testing 20 centrifuges.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said in February Iran had started work on uranium fuel but only using a few centrifuges. He said then Iran was months away from operating a full cascade.

Each chain contains 164 centrifuges. Such cascades refine uranium gas into fuel for power stations, or if highly enriched, for bombs.

Around 1,500 centrifuges running optimally for a year could yield enough material for a bomb, experts say.