Iran: Fordo uranium enrichment facilities 'safe'

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Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoon Abbasi said that Iran's Fordo uranium enrichment establishments, as subterranean enrichment facilities, is safe from any kinds of threat by the enemies, local Mehr news agency reported on Sunday.

Abbasi said, given the ill-intents of the enemies to damage Iran's nuclear facilities, "the Fordo enrichment facility is located under the ground as the Natanz nuclear site is," said the report.

"Enemies have tried to damage our nuclear facilities through different plots including industrial disturbance and viruses and particular signals," however, "our scientists have resisted all their plots," he was quoted as saying.

It would be so costly for the enemies to damage these facilities, he added.

The conservative Kayhan daily reported on Sunday that Iran has started uranium enrichment at the Fordo uranium enrichment site.

Iran has started injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at the Fordo facilities near Qom city in central Iran, said the daily.

Kayhan quoted unnamed sources from inside and outside of the country saying that Iran has already begun uranium enrichment in Fordo amid the heightened threats of its enemies.

However, on Saturday, Abbasi said that the subterranean Fordo enrichment facilities will start operating in the near future.

"The Fordo facilities will be launched soon and will be able to produce 20 percent, 3.5 percent and four percent enriched uranium, " Abbasi said during the opening ceremony of an exhibition displaying the country's nuclear achievements in the port city of Bandar Abbas in the southern province of Hormozgan.

In August, Abbasi said that the Islamic republic had started transferring the nuclear enrichment centrifuges of its Natanz nuclear facility to the Fordo atomic site.

In June, Abbasi said that Iran was going to install new generation of centrifuges in its uranium enrichment sites and would increase its 20-percent uranium enrichment output by three times.

Abbasi said that Iran would install first chain of 164 new- generation centrifuges in both Natanz and Fordo uranium enrichment sites "soon."

Iran would triple the 20-percent uranium enrichment output after the enrichment process is moved to Fordo, the Iranian nuclear chief said.

Abbasi said Iran would stop the enrichment process in Natanz after it made sure that the Fordo site could produce the uranium enriched by three times as its current status.

On Sunday, Abbasi said the Islamic republic was ready to export services related to nuclear energy to other countries, the local satellite Press TV reported.

Iran can now produce heavy water (deuterium oxide), which is very useful for medical applications, Abbasi was quoted as saying.

Abbasi also said that with the recently unveiled third- generation centrifuges, which perform much faster than the previous models and can considerably accelerate the enrichment process.

The local media reported last week that the scientists and researchers of AEOI succeeded in producing and testing the first sample of nuclear fuel rod "successfully."

After all the preliminary tests including the physical and dimensional tests were conducted successfully, the nuclear fuel rod was fed into the core of the Tehran Research Reactor to further study the performance of the produced sample, said the reports.

Iran said the Tehran Research Reactor uses the nuclear fuel rod to produce medicines for cancer treatments.

On Saturday, Abbasi said that the country would announce some new progress in nuclear fields in the next few weeks.

According to the official IRNA news agency on Saturday, Abbasi said Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant will reach its full capacity of 1,000 megawatts in early February.

Construction of the Bushehr plant, beginning in 1975 by several German companies, was halted when the United States imposed an embargo of hi-tech supplies on Iran after the 1979 revolution. Russia signed a contract with Iran to complete the construction in 1998.

Completion of the plant's construction has been postponed several times due to technical and financial challenges and pressure from the United States.

On Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined red lines for Iran in a TV interview vowing that the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon ... in the wake of the reports that Iran began uranium enrichment at the new underground site of Fordo well protected from possible airstrikes.

The West suspects that Iran's uranium enrichment may be meant for producing nuclear weapons. Iran has denied West's nuclear charges, saying its nuclear program is only for peaceful use.

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