The following are excerpts from an interview with Ali-Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, which aired on Al-Alam TV on February 8, 2010.
Ali-Akbar Salehi: As we have stated in the past, Iran is capable of enriching [uranium for] nuclear fuel to any degree. Nonetheless, we told the other countries, through the IAEA, that we prefer buying fuel for the Tehran nuclear plant from abroad. Unfortunately, it turns out that they are not prepared to deal with us.
We have waited for more than seven months. Therefore, Dr. Ahmadinejad gave instructions today to start producing the fuel we need, and God willing, we will start enriching uranium to 20% on Tuesday.
Interviewer: Iran will officially begin enriching uranium to a degree of 20% on Tuesday. Does this mean that nuclear fuel swap between Iran and the Western countries, and the one- or two-month moratorium, have become a thing of the past, and that Iran will begin...
Ali-Akbar Salehi: No, the proposal is still on the table. We are willing to receive the fuel from abroad. When we receive it, we will stop the enrichment.
If the West does not give us the fuel, we will be forced to produce it ourselves. We are capable of producing this fuel. Nonetheless, we prefer to buy the fuel from abroad.
Interviewer: Technically, Iran is capable of enriching uranium to a level of 20% without any difficulty?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: Of course... The inspectors will…
Interviewer: At which plant?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: At Natanz.
Interviewer: How long will it take Iran to produce the fuel it needs for the Tehran reactor?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: The production of the fuel will be continuous. We are not going to produce just the amount of fuel we need, and then cease production. No, fuel production will be continuous. Each month, we will produce the amount of fuel needed for the following month.
The problem with the West is that it imposes meaningless conditions. Suppose that Iran did not have the ability to enrich uranium. We need fuel for the Tehran nuclear reactor. If any country other than Iran needs 20% enriched fuel – is it supposed to begin enriching uranium to 3.5%, in order to swap it with 20% enriched fuel from abroad? These conditions are irrational and wrong.
Anyway, we accepted the proposal of swapping our 3.5% enriched uranium for 20% enriched uranium. Nevertheless, they imposed additional conditions, and they did not give us any guarantees… OK, if we were to send our 3.5% enriched uranium abroad, but did not receive the fuel – who would be responsible? Therefore, we demanded a special guarantee, but they were not prepared to give us any sufficient guarantee. They said that we should take their word for it, but our experience with the West – with France, Germany, and the US – has been bad. We cannot rely on their word alone.
We are prepared to swap uranium for fuel, if this exchange takes place in Iran, but they insisted that we send the uranium abroad. Why abroad? If you accept the custody of the IAEA, let the 3.5% uranium be under the supervision of the IAEA in Iran – on Kish Island or anywhere else in Iran. After we receive the 20% uranium, they can have the 3.5% uranium. They insisted that the 3.5% uranium be transferred outside Iran, although we promised them that if they leave this 3.5% uranium under the supervision of the IAEA, and if we receive the 20% uranium, we will not break the seal on the 3.5% uranium.
Interviewer: The seals?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: Yes, the seals. It will remain sealed until we receive the 20% uranium. Why is IAEA supervision acceptable in Turkey, Brazil, and anywhere else, but not in Iran? This is illogical.
Interviewer: So the problem lies in the venue of the swap, as well as the quantity?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: The quantity is not that important. But generally speaking – yes.
The West is arrogant, I am sad to say. It always seeks to impose its will on other countries. Iran is an independent country, and it will not accept these dictates. We hope that matters do not become so complicated, but if they do, we will take the appropriate measures.
The nuclear field is vast. Iran’s nuclear activities are numerous, and include all aspects – enrichment, building nuclear plants... For example, we are currently building a nuclear plant in Arak – or rather, a nuclear reactor for research, and for the production of nuclear [isotopes] for medicine. Allah willing, in the near future, we will make stronger centrifuges than those we use today.
Interviewer: P2 centrifuges?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: P3, P4, Allah willing. We will announce this in two months time.
Interviewer: Iran is currently enriching uranium using P1 centrifuges, but it announced that it began experimenting with P2. Has Iran actually begun enriching uranium using the P2 centrifuges?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: Not yet. But Allah willing, in two months, we will experiment with P3 and P4, and after that, we will announce the steps we will take.
Interviewer: In yet another achievement, Iranian President Ahmadinejad gave instructions to build additional reactors – ten additional nuclear reactors, I think. Has Iran determined the sites, as President Ahmadinejad instructed?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: Not reactors, but uranium enrichment plants. Not nuclear reactors. Ten more uranium enrichment plants, like the one in Natanz. We determined the sites and informed Dr. Ahmadinejad, and Allah willing, next year, which begins in Iran in two months, we will start working on several plants.
We hope that the Bushehr plant will begin production in the next few months, Allah willing. Before the plant begins its operation, it must undergo several experiments. We have completed all the experiments, except one. Next month, we will complete the last experiment, Allah willing. We will transfer the fuel to the designated place in the Bushehr plant, and we will start operating the plant within a few months, Allah willing.
Threats have been made, especially by the Zionists, but we take all the necessary precautions, and the rest is in the hands of Allah. Martyrdom... Everybody wants to meet Allah as a martyr. We have no fear. Our scientists are not afraid. Naturally, we take precautions, the government invests all its efforts in protect the scientists of Iran, but if what happened to the martyr Ali-Mohammadi happens again – so be it.
Interviewer: The Israelis, and sometimes the American, threaten to attack the Iranian nuclear plants. Can you tell us how these nuclear plants are protected from foreign attacks? Are they sufficiently fortified to deter such attacks?
Ali-Akbar Salehi: Naturally, we took all necessary measures to fortify [the plants], but this does not mean that there is 100% protection. That's one thing. Secondly, we think that the enemy – especially the Zionist enemy – will not dare take this cowardly step. This could spell the end of Israel. Attacking Iran is not a simple thing, and they know this.