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Iran to continue uranium enrichment - nuclear chief

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The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said on Friday that Tehran will continue its uranium enrichment program for domestic nuclear plants, local media reported.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said on Friday that Tehran will continue its uranium enrichment program for domestic nuclear plants, local media reported.

"Enrichment [of uranium] for producing fuel for the Bushehr plant and other plants will continue," Ali Akbar Salehi, Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Russia has said that all the fuel for Bushehr will be supplied by Russia and all the spent fuel will be returned to Russia, but Salehi said the Islamic republic does not necessarily have to buy fuel from Russia.

"The Bushehr plant has a lifespan of 60 years and we plan to use it for 40 years. Suppose we buy fuel for 10 years from Russia, what are we going to do for the next 30 to 50 years?" Salehi said.

"We now have enough nuclear fuel for the reactor for one year," he said. "One third of that [amount] has to be replaced every year."

The fuel deal made the project acceptable to Washington and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that the Bushehr plant contributes to the nonproliferation regime.

The first fuel is due to be placed in the reactor chamber on Saturday.

Salehi said that Iran will be able to produce some 30 tons of enriched uranium at the Natanz enrichment facility once all the necessary equipment is installed.

Iran's only nuclear reactor other than Bushehr is a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.

Salehi said Iran needed to build more nuclear power plants, so it would also need more fuel. He said previously that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered 10 new enrichment facilities to be built.

Western powers suspect Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of its nuclear program, a charge Tehran strongly denies, saying the program is aimed at the peaceful generation of civilian energy.

On June 9, 2010, the UN Security Council approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, including tougher financial controls and an expanded arms embargo, as well as an asset ban on three dozen companies and a travel freeze on individuals.

Later, the United States and the European Union imposed extra sanctions against Iran, including tougher restrictions on the energy sector and a tougher trade embargo.

The construction of the Bushehr facility was not affected by the sanctions.

MOSCOW, August 20 (RIA Novosti)

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