Iran scientists reportedly have plans for new nuclear facility

Iranian scientists have submitted plans to start work on at least one new nuclear facility by September, a top official was quoted as saying Saturday, in a move that could inflame tensions with the West.

Ali Akbar Salehi, who oversees Iran’s complex of nuclear installations, told the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency that his Atomic Energy Organization has taken steps to commission “one or two” new sites pending the approval of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He said the new installations were in line with a 2009 policy to expand the nation’s nuclear technology infrastructure. But he did not specify where the sites would be or whether they would be power reactors, uranium-enrichment plants or other types of facilities.

“These installations will be spread across the country and will be built in certain points based on Mr. Ahmadinejad’s discretion,” he said.

“Potential locations have been selected for the construction of new nuclear installations, which will be announced once a feasibility study has been carried out.”

The U.S., its Western allies and Israel suspect Tehran of trying to master nuclear technology to obtain weapons capability, which they fear would upset the balance of power in the Middle East. The Obama administration in recent days enticed China to agree to talks on another potential round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran and to attend a coming summit on nonproliferation.

The Security Council has repeatedly called on Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium and sensitive nuclear and missile technology research that potentially could be used to create weapons.

Iran contends that it will never build a bomb and has scheduled a disarmament conference in Tehran this month to highlight the disparity between nuclear-armed powers and the developing world.