Iran to ramp up another nuclear plant

TEHRAN – Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant is just weeks from operating at full capacity, the country’s top nuclear official said Saturday, according to CNN. Feireidoun Abbasi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, also said Tehran has shown its new Iranian-made centrifuges to a representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Bushehr plant, located along the Persian Gulf coast, will reach its full capacity of 1,000 megawatts by February 1, Abbasi said, according to the country’s official news agency, IRNA. The plant was connected to the country’s electric grid in September with a capacity of 60 megawatts. At 1,000 megawatts, Bushehr will be able to provide 2.5% of Iran’s current electricity consumption, the IAEA said.

Abbasi made the announcement about Bushehr while attending a meeting on Iran’s nuclear achievements held in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas. He told the meeting that Tehran had shown the new generation of its homemade centrifuge machines to the IAEA “in a bid to demonstrate the ability of Iranian scientists,” he said.

Abbasi said the centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, were shown to the deputy of IAEA, Director-General Yukiya Amano, but he did not say when. It was not immediately clear whether an IAEA representative had in fact been to Iran and seen the centrifuges.

Tehran describes US Navy rescue as ‘humanitarian’

Meanwhile, Iran has described the US Navy’s rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held by Somali pirates as a “humanitarian gesture”, the BBC said. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country had also rescued foreign sailors from pirates on occasion. But he said such acts did not affect overall relations between countries.

The Americans say they freed the Iranian fishermen in the Arabian Sea after more than a month in captivity, and provided fuel and food for them to return home. The rescue was carried out by forces assigned to the John C Stennis aircraft carrier group, which recently left the Gulf to assist US military operations in Afghanistan.

According to a New York Times reporter who boarded the captured Al Molai with the US forces, the Iranian fishermen expressed great gratitude for their rescue, with one saying: “It is like you were sent by God.” But Iran’s Fars news agency expressed suspicion about the operation, saying it was “like a Hollywood film” which “seems to have been pre-organised”.

Earlier in the week, the US rejected an Iranian warning to keep its forces out of Gulf waters after Western powers unveiled new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

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