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Fuel plates are readied for reactor.

Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi says Iran will install Iranian-made fuel plates into its small Tehran nuclear reactor this month and resume making medical radioisotopes there.

Iran has said it started enriching uranium to 19.75 percent because the fuel for the Tehran reactor requires that concentration. It said it then built a plant near Esfahan to make the special alloy fuel plates.

Salehi said Sunday that all that work has been done and the installation of the fuel plates would take place before the end of February.

Salehi used to head the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, but a year ago became foreign minister. Still, he keeps his hand in nuclear work and often makes announcements about the nuclear program that is not part of his portfolio any longer.

Salehi said, "Although the other side did not think that we could produce 20 percent enriched uranium and convert it into fuel plates, they will now see that we will load the fuel that we have produced in our country."

No one in the nuclear field ever doubted that Iran could produce uranium enriched beyond the 3.5 percent it has been doing for several years. Going to a higher concentration does not require any new skills; it merely requires additional spinning in centrifuges.

Some Western analysts did cast doubt on Iran's ability to make the fuel plates. Most, however, said Iran could do it in time, but said it made no economic sense to build a plate factory that would only need to be open and running a few months every decade.

The Tehran reactor is small research reactor provided by the United States decades ago. It is a 5-megawatt reactor, while the Bushehr reactor that is due to be operating soon and generating electricity is a 1,000-megawatt reactor.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Feb 3, 2012
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