Iran denies problem with uranium enrichment

23 Nov 2010

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Iran Tuesday denied claims that its sensitive uranium enrichment work has been hit by technical problems and stressed that its nuclear programme has not been harmed by the Stuxnet computer worm.

Also rejecting allegations by Western powers that Iran lacks the know-how to make nuclear fuel plates, atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi was adamant the Islamic republic would be producing fuel for a research reactor by September 2011.

Salehi “denied Western media reports that enrichment has stopped in Iran,” the official news agency IRNA reported. “Iran will never pay attention to lies in Western media on its progressive path in the nuclear issue,” he told IRNA.
Salehi appeared to be reacting to comments by Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who said on Monday that technical problems were slowing down Iran’s uranium enrichment.
Heinonen, addressing an event in Washington organised by the Arms Control Association, said the problems stemmed possibly from a flawed design for centrifuges. The centrifuges are operating at only 60 percent of capacity and Iran for some reason has removed hundreds of the machines, he said.

Iran in February started refining uranium to 20 percent purity after a deadlock in a nuclear fuel swap deal drafted by the UN atomic watchdog and aimed at providing fuel for the Tehran medical research reactor.

Salehi said on Tuesday the enrichment process was continuing apace. “By the month of Shahrivar next year (September 2011), we will produce fuel for the reactor,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Salehi also repeated previous denials by Iranian officials that an extraordinary computer worm, Stuxnet, had in any way harmed Iran’s nuclear programme. “This virus bumped into a dead-end, a wall, and the enemies could not achieve the goals they had hoped for in the past one-and-a-half years,” he said. “Two or three months ago they angrily unveiled it (the worm) after realising they had not achieved their aims.”

Western computer security experts have said that Stuxnet, a self-replicating malware which was publicly identified in June, may have disrupted control systems for the Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges.
Most of the Stuxnet infections have been discovered in Iran, giving rise to speculation it was designed to disrupt the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work.

source: AFP

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