Iran: Enrichment confirmed; Bushehr delay acknowledged

19 April 2007

Iran is operating more than 1300 centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment site, according to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors. However, the start up of the country's first nuclear power plant will be postponed and is not likely until 2008.

According to a confidential report by the IAEA obtained by Reuters, inspectors conducting a "design information verification" at the Natanz plant on 15-16 April were informed that 1312 centrifuges in eight cascades were running, and that some uranium was being fed into them. Iran says it aims to have 3000 centrifuges running by May and estimates it will take two to four years to reach its goal of 50,000 centrifuges.

IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen also noted that Iran had stopped Agency inspectors from verifying design work on the Arak heavy water reactor. Iran has reduced its cooperation with the IAEA to a legal minimum since a UN resolution in March widening sanctions after Iran refused to suspend its enrichment programme.

Meanwhile, Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Ivanov has publicly acknowledged that the schedule for completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, being built by Russian contractor AtomStroyExport, will be extended. The plant had been scheduled to start up in September 2007 under an agreement made in December 2006. Speaking at a press conference, Ivanov dismissed any political reason for delaying completion of the plant. Delays have occurred as a result of wrangling over regular payments by Iran and some technical problems, although according to Ivanov the countries have reached agreements on financial issues. Ivanov said it was impossible to say by how long the schedule would be extended.

Further information

International Atomic Energy Agency

WNA's Iraq, North Korea & Iran - Implications for Safeguards information paper

WNN: Iran announces centrifuge plans as inspectors arrive at Natanz
WNN: Bushehr approaches commissioning
WNN: Iran defiant as UN imposes further sanctions