Iran says its engineers have managed to produce a nuclear fuel rod, marking a benchmark achievement for the country’s nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile the US issued new round of sanctions against Tehran in a bid to stop its atomic exploits.
Nuclear fuel rods are devices used at power plants. They contain small pellets of fuel, usually low-enriched uranium, patterned in a way allowing them to give out heat produced by nuclear reaction without melting down. Building one is a technological challenge, which Iran was thought incapable of.
According to the Iranian Nuclear Agency, the first rod produced by the country domestically has already been inserted into a research reactor, although it did not specify whether the device was loaded with fuel or not.
Tehran, which says it aims to develop a complex civilian nuclear industry, is facing difficulties in obtaining the technology and raw materials it needs to do it. Several major players believe that the program is just a cover-up for the real ambition to create a nuclear weapon and push for increasingly tougher sanctions against Iran – both unilateral and through international organizations.
The latest round of such sanctions was introduced on Saturday by US President Barack Obama as part of a controversial multibillion-dollar defense bill. The legislation aims to reduce Tehran’s oil revenues and is expected to force the country into making its nuclear program more transparent.
Iranian officials dismissed the American move, with the head of Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian calling it “unjustifiable”.
The tension between the US and Iran has been rising over the latest months. The latest point of conflict is Iran’s navy exercise near the Strait of Hormuz. It is crucial for global oil trade because a third of world’s oil tanker transport passes it. Tehran threatened that it will block it in response to a military attack by the US or its allies.
Hisham Jaber, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies, told RT that in his opinion Iran will not close the Strait of Hormuz unless the sanctions imposed by the US and its allies hamper Iran’s oil exports.
“If the sanction touches the oil of Iran, the situation will be dangerous,” Jaber said. “If America and its allies forbid Iran to export its oil, in Iran’s opinion it is a red line. And it’s not a sanction only against Iran, it is a sanction against Iran’s clients like China, like Japan, like many countries in the world.”
Jaber says that neither Iran nor the US has any interest in having a military conflict in the Gulf, but admits that such an outcome is possible.
“Maybe Iran will not close the Strait of Hormuz, but it may disturb the navigation in that area,” he added. “In this case – with the presence of battleships from both sides – we risk having a small conflict. And this small conflict may lead to a war in the region.”
Earlier on Saturday Tehran said that it wants to hold a new round of talks with the six-strong mediators group. The group consisting of China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and US is trying to defuse the controversy over the Iranian nuclear program.
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