TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran needs 20 uranium enrichment plants to produce enough fuel for its nuclear power plants and has no plans to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the official IRNA news agency has reported.
"To provide fuel for our nuclear power plants, we need to have 20 uranium enrichment plants," IRNA quoted Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.
In a major expansion of its nuclear program, Tehran said on November 29 it would build 10 more uranium enrichment sites like its underground plant at Natanz, monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
On December 4, Iran said it will provide the IAEA with the bare minimum of information about its plan to build new sites, a stance sure to stoke Western suspicions about its atomic agenda.
Analysts say Iran will need many years if not decades for such a huge expansion of its enrichment capability.
They fear that Iran's insistence on sticking to notification rules the IAEA considers obsolete will allow Tehran to skirt the system, heightening the risk of Tehran being able to "weaponize" enrichment clandestinely.
Uranium enrichment can be calibrated to yield fuel either for nuclear power plants or the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.
Iran says its enriched uranium will be only for electricity generation. Iran's record of nuclear secrecy and lack of power plants to use low-enriched uranium has convinced the West that Iran is hiding a program to develop nuclear weapons capacity.
Salehi accused the West of maneuvering to make Iran leave the NPT.
"I think the West is trying to force us out of the NPT because they have noticed that we are so insistent on adherence to the NPT and this is not to the liking of the West," Salehi said. "We have no plans to pull out of the NPT."