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Iran celebrates Nuclear Day as Big Six invite Tehran to open talks

Iran is set to announce its response to an invitation from the UN Security Council's five permanent members, plus Germany, to attend talks on Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the nuclear plant in Isfahan

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad opens the nation’s first nuclear fuel plant

Iran says it has now mastered the complete nuclear fuel cycle from uranium mining to enrichment: on Thursday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the nation’s first nuclear fuel manufacturing plant in the central province of Isfahan.

The president cut the ribbon at the Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) at a ceremony marking Iran's Nuclear Day holiday.

A major breakthrough for Iran’s controversial atomic program

The plant is reportedly able to produce nuclear fuel tablets, rod and assemblies for Iran's Arak 40-megawatt research reactor, to be launched within the next two or three years.

Isfahan's FMP can also produce nuclear fuel assemblies for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is a joint project with Russia with its first phase scheduled to be completed later this year.

The FMP in Isfahan will convert enriched uranium hexafluoride into uranium dioxide (UO2) powder, which is to later be processed into pellet form, Tehran's Press TV said on its website.

The pellets will then be stacked into tubes of corrosion-resistant metal alloy called fuel rods. The finished fuel rods will be assembled together to build up the nuclear fuel core of a power reactor.

7,000 centrifuges at Natanz

Ahmadinejad is also to inspect the Natanz uranium enrichment facility near Isfahan. Atomic chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh declared that Iran has installed around 7,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant.

Tehran says that its nuclear program is only for civilian and peaceful purposes, but the West fears that Iran might use the same technology for making nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad has said that Iran would be ready for negotiations with the West on allaying fear about its alleged military program. However, he has rejected international demands that Tehran suspend its nuclear enrichment work.

On Wednesday, the United States said it would join other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany in talks with Iran about its nuclear activities. This marks a significant shift from former President George W. Bush's position that the US would not enter into talks with Iran until it suspended all nuclear activities.

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