TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran will not hesitate to produce higher enriched uranium on its territory if nuclear talks fail with the U.N. watchdog, Russia, France and the United States in Vienna on Monday, an Iranian official said.
“If the talks do not bring about Iran’s desired result … we will start to make 19.7 percent enriched uranium ourselves,” Ali Shirzadian, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, told Reuters, a few hours before the talks were due to start.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear reactors or as the fissile core of a bomb, if enriched further.
The West fears Iran’s nuclear programme is a front to obtain a bomb. Iran says it needs nuclear technology to generate power.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog will host the meeting to discuss details of sending Iran’s 3.5 percent enriched uranium abroad for further processing and return to Tehran.
The issue was agreed “in principle” between Iran and world powers in Geneva on Oct. 1. But Iranian authorities have so far shown no public hints of flexibility over Iran’s nuclear row with the West.
World powers aim to reach a deal with Iran in Vienna to process its uranium abroad to prevent its possible use for an atom bomb. However, Shirzadian told the official IRNA news agency that it would not be “economically feasible” for Iran to further enrich its low enriched uranium inside Iran. “We need 150 to 300 kg of 19.7 percent enriched uranium for the Tehran reactor and it is not economically feasible to make it in Iran,” Shirzadian said, IRNA reported.
Tehran has agreed in principle to have its uranium processed in Russia and France for use by a Tehran reactor that makes cancer-care isotopes but is running out of imported fuel.
The talks will be the first chance for Iran and world powers to make good on prospects for nuclear cooperation raised in Geneva. But reaching a deal seems difficult because of differences over exactly what was agreed in Geneva and what each party wants out of the deal, underlining the corrosive mistrust that has foiled occasional diplomatic feelers over the years. “Providing fuel for Tehran reactor is a good test to see whether the West is honest with Iran,” Shirzadian said.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment.
Shirzadian said Iran had no intention to curb uranium enrichment.
“Buying nuclear fuel from abroad does not mean Iran will stop its enrichment work inside the country,” Shirzadian said. “Iran’s activities to produce five percent uranium enrichment will continue … we will never abandon our right (to enrich uranium).”