Iran Nuclear Plant Is Year From Completion, Diplomats Say

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PostThu Nov 12, 2009 8:16 pm » by Savwafair2012


VIENNA -- Iran's recently revealed uranium enrichment hall is a highly fortified underground space that is a year away from completion after fitful construction that first started seven years ago, diplomats told the Associated Press on Thursday.

The diplomats also said that a recent inspection of the facility near the holy city of Qom by the International Atomic Energy Agency has reinforced suspicions that it could have been planned as part of a secret military nuclear program. Iran says it wants to enrich only to make atomic fuel but the West fears it could retool its program to churn out fissile warhead material.

One of the diplomats -- a senior official from a European nation -- says the hall is too small to be able to house the tens of thousands of centrifuges needed for peaceful industrial nuclear enrichment but the right size for the few thousand advanced machines that could generate the amount of weapons grade uranium needed for a military nuclear program.

The construction timeline of the facility, near the holy city of Qom is also important because it could help shed light on Tehran's ultimate nuclear aims and reflect its determination to keep its activities secret as far back as the initial revelation seven years ago that Iran had a clandestine nuclear program. Iran says it wants to enrich only to make nuclear fuel but the West fears it could turn its program toward making fissile warhead material.

The diplomats said Thursday that Iran started building the plant near Qom in 2002, then paused for two years in 2004 before resuming construction in 2006.

Those years jibe with the years Iran's secret nuclear program was initially revealed, its suspension of enrichment -- a key international demand -- and its resumption of the activity.

All of the diplomats have access to information compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency. They demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential matters.

Iran acknowledged in September that it was building the facility in a restricted note to the IAEA only a few days before the U.S., British and French leaders jointly denounced Tehran for keeping its existence secret. IAEA inspectors visited the planned enrichment plant last month.

Iran maintains it fulfilled its legal obligations in revealing it was being built, but IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said Tehran was "outside the law" and should have informed his agency when the decision to construct it was made.
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