Iran starts work on higher-grade nuclear fuel

Iran began work on today to make higher-grade nuclear fuel, a senior official said, and the Pentagon said the United States wanted a UN Security Council resolution on Iran "within weeks" over its nuclear programme.

The Islamic Republic, which denies its programme has military aims, announced on Sunday it would produce uranium enriched to a level of 20 percent for a Tehran research reactor making medical isotopes.

This followed a failure to agree terms for a proposed nuclear swap with major powers, under which Iran would send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for such fuel.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said preparatory work had started and production of the fuel would be officially launched later on Tuesday, in the presence of inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"It will formally be announced in the afternoon," Salehi told Reuters, saying he was on his way to the enrichment plant near the central city of Natanz.

State television said production had already started.

Iran currently enriches uranium to a level of 3.5 percent while 80 percent or more is needed for a nuclear bomb.

The Pentagon said the United States wants the UN Security Council to approve a resolution "within weeks, not months", laying the ground for new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. They would be the fourth set of sanctions.

Despite Iranian denials, Western powers fear Iran is enriching uranium with a view to producing nuclear weapons.

Salehi said Iran had set up a chain of 164 centrifuges, used to refine uranium, to produce the 20 percent fuel. He said production capacity is 3 to 5 kg a month, above the Tehran reactor's needs of 1.5 kg, ISNA news agency reported.

A senior lawmaker in Russia, which in the past has urged talks rather than punishment, also said economic measures should be considered against Iran, a major oil producer.

Among the big powers only China, which can block any UN sanctions, has remained unswervingly opposed to punishing Iran.

On Tuesday Beijing urged increased diplomatic efforts to resolve the stand-off over Iran's nuclear plans, calling for all sides to work towards agreement on the fuel exchange plan.

"This would help towards appropriately resolving the Iran nuclear issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

Possible targets for any new sanctions include Iran's central bank, the Revolutionary Guards who Western powers say are key to Iran's nuclear programme, shipping firms and its energy sector, Western diplomats say.

Enriching uranium to 20 percent would take Iran much of the way to having weapons-grade uranium.

But analysts said it would need a few months to reconfigure its Natanz plant to refine uranium to higher purity.

Iran may also be having more difficulty obtaining crucial components due to UN sanctions, said the analysts, who added that the latest move might be a negotiating tactic.

Tehran says the more highly refined uranium is destined for the research reactor, but it lacks the technology to convert the material into special fuel needed to run this plant in the capital.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tehran was still prepared to carry out the fuel swap, if its conditions were met.

On Monday, the IAEA confirmed Tehran had notified the UN nuclear watchdog of its plans to produce higher-grade fuel, and said it would damage chances of saving the fuel supply deal.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said: "We're still prepared, if our requirements are met, to carry out this swap ... any time they are ready this can be done."

Suggested Topics
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
scienceHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

Chemistry Teacher

£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Outstanding Teaching Assistants needed f...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried